New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who won reelection in November against Republican challenger Marc Molinaro, outlined his plans for the start of his third term in a speech at the New York Bar Association on Monday. His agenda includes legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults in the state, joining 10 other states and Washington D.C., including New York State neighbors Massachusetts and Vermont. New Jersey also could be legalizing marijuana in 2019 as well.
“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” he said, urging the legislature to act in the first 100 days of his next term, which begins on January 1st. With a Democrat-led state house and senate, there’s a good chance of recreational use getting the legislative support it would need.
Other states have used taxes and licensing fees from legal weed to fund infrastructure projects, schools, affordable housing, and food and housing for the homeless — all of which are in need of funding in New York, and could greatly benefit from the estimated $1.7 billion in revenue legalization could bring.
In 2017, Cuomo told reporters he was against recreational marijuana.
“It’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” he said. “There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana.” But he’s come around — with some help from his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, who pushed the political conversation in New York to the left.
Nixon tweeted on Monday that her failed campaign for governor was “worth it” after seeing several of her main priorities listed in Cuomo’s 2019 agenda, including ending cash bail, codifying abortion rights protections, and voting reform (like allowing vote-by-mail and early voting, making election day a state holiday, and banning corporate donations to candidates) — in addition to legalizing recreational marijuana.
Cuomo framed his speech around references to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a New York governor before he became the 32nd president of the United States — a possible nod to Cuomo’s own rumored presidential ambitions for 2020 (although he has publicly stated that he’s not going to run).
In addition to his agenda for New York State, Cuomo spoke more broadly about the responsibility of the Democratic party to stand up to President Trump.
“Today while Democrats bemoan our current federal government, let us remember F.D.R.’s example: that it is not enough for Democrats to criticize,” he said. “The Democratic leadership has to prove that it has the knowledge to govern, the skill to accomplish and the understanding to unite.”