Legal Weed Is a Reality in America, but Congress Refuses to Admit It
As New York moves toward legal recreational cannabis, the failure to enact nationwide reforms is becoming more glaring.
New York State Senator Diane Savino says she knows the moment Governor Andrew Cuomo changed his mind on legal weed.
Cuomo was famously so anti-marijuana that as recently as February 2017 he was still pushing the “gateway drug” line. However, at the beginning of August he announced a 20-person working group that will look into the practicalities of legalizing the drug for recreational adult use in the state, a decision that followed a recommendation from a commission that recreational marijuana be legalized.
Savino, one of the four named legislators in the working group, traces the governor’s change of heart back to a conversation she had with him after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was elected in November.
“Murphy said that within his first 100 days in office he was going to do a bunch of things—including adult-use marijuana,” she told me. “I had a conversation with [Cuomo] and said: ‘You’re going to have to start thinking about adult-use marijuana now.’ He said: ‘Why? The Republicans in the Senate will never do it.’ I said: ‘It really doesn’t matter what they think or what anybody else thinks. If Phil Murphy does what he’s said he’s going to do then you’ll have marijuana to the left of you, to the right of you in Massachusetts, and to the north of you in Canada. You can’t stop it.’”
When asked if Savino’s recollection of the conversation is accurate, Cuomo’s spokesman Rich Azzopardi replied: “The governor first ordered the report on the feasibility of a legal marijuana program in January because the existence of similar programs in surrounding states changed from question from ‘legalize or don’t legalize’ to ‘how to implement it correctly.’ The State Department of Health released its findings and now experts will use it as a roadmap to writing legislation for next session.”
Savino knows the politics of weed. She was the lead sponsor of the state’s Compassionate Care Act, which legalized marijuana for medical use—with many restrictions, including a ban on smokable weed—when it passed in 2014. She told me she’ll be encouraging other members to travel the country to examine how legalization has happened elsewhere. “You have to leave New York!” she said. “You have to go other states and see what works and what doesn’t work, to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes.”
When she was drafting the bill, Savino said she treated the example of California as a cautionary tale. “California was the thing that scared people in New York the most,” she said. “It was a completely unregulated market because you didn’t have a state law. They allowed local governments to decide whether they were going to issue licenses. You had no rhyme or reason to it, and it really didn’t resemble what people thought a medical program should look like because of the ease with which people could walk in the door and become patients.”
Full Article by: Vice