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New York State Democratic Party Set to Endorse Cannabis Legalization

Incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo has backed off his anti-legalization stance after a number of opponents promised to pursue legal marijuana.

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Photo via MTA of NY

New York has been one of the slowest states to embrace cannabis reform, but change may finally be in the cards now that the state's Democratic Party is reportedly planning to endorse marijuana legalization at its convention next week. Empire State Governor Andrew Cuomo has completely opposed legalization throughout his two terms in office, but as an increasing number of his opponents in this year's Democratic primary are backing full legalization, the governor is finally changing his tune.

Last month, Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon, who is running against Cuomo in the primary, announced that she was all for legalizing and regulating retail pot sales. A number of other prominent New Yorkers — including (now) independent gubernatorial candidate Joel Giambra and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James — have also recently announced their support for legalization.

According to an internal document obtained by the New York Daily News, the state's Democratic Party is planning to vote to officially endorse legal cannabis during its convention next week. A party insider anonymously told the New York Post that “Cuomo is OK with it if it’s the party agenda for approval.” The governor recently said that legalization is no longer a simple yes-or-no question, but a question of how and when. "The devil is in the details," he told local reporters on Monday. "If yes, under what circumstances?"

This January, Cuomo commissioned the state Department of Health to examine how legal weed might impact New York, and the results of this study are expected to be released “within days,” according to Marijuana Moment. As noted in reporter Kyle Jaeger’s analysis, the governor has already likely seen the results of this report, and the fact that he is still willing to endorse legalization after reading it suggests its contents are positive.

Cuomo has consistently come out in opposition to legal weed, previously calling it a “gateway drug,” but more recently has come around to the point of view that legalization is inevitable. As several popular gubernatorial opponents began to stump for legal weed, the governor quickly reversed his stance on legal cannabis. In a recent interview, Cuomo explained that “the facts changed on this issue and the facts changed quickly.”

The governor noted that legal weed will go on sale in Massachusetts this summer, and that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has also promised to legalize this year. "You'll then have two border states where it would be legal," Cuomo said, according to the NY Daily News. "To say, well, it won't be in New York, I think is to avoid reality at that point."