Axel Bernabe, Cuomo's assistant counsel for health, detailed the state's new cannabis reform plans in a recent interview with Canopy Growth. This January, Cuomo will be adding a cannabis legalization amendment to the annual state budget bill for the third year in a row. The previous two legalization measures were rejected due to concerns over tax revenue, public safety, and social equity, but the governor’s office believes this new bill can be approved by April 2021.
Bernabe is hopeful that the new draft of the legislation will address opponents’ concerns. “We’re working on this,” he said in the interview, Marijuana Moment reports. “We’re going to reintroduce this in our budget in January. We think we can get it done by April 1.”
Initially, Cuomo hoped that New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other surrounding states would all legalize adult-use at the same time. None of these states' legislatures were able to agree on the terms of legalization, however, and New Jersey lawmakers eventually decided to let their constituents decide the issue. Two weeks from now, Garden State voters will have the chance to legalize adult-use, and according to recent polls, it looks like they will.
Bernabe said that the governor is watching New Jersey closely and hopes to sync New York’s legalization process up with its neighbor. Even if the Garden State does vote yes on legalization, there is a long process of licensing and regulation that has to be ironed out before stores can begin legally selling weed. If New York is able to pass its own legalization law by next spring, it may be able to catch up with New Jersey's progress.
The new bill contains new concessions to placate prohibitionists that are concerned that legal weed poses a risk to public safety. Social equity also plays a major role in the new proposal, including a number of provisions to ensure that communities ravaged by decades of prohibition can benefit from legalization.
“I would say equity pervades the entirety of the bill,” Bernabe said. “It pervades it on the licensing front, it’s on the revenue side and the use of funds and providing capital and loans.”
In addition to legalizing adult-use, the governor's office is also working to draft new regulations for hemp-derived CBD products. Since the US government legalized hemp and associated products in 2018, CBD-infused drinks and foods have popped up in practically every store in the state – even though they are completely unregulated and technically still illegal.
Bernabe told Culver that the state is “literally putting the final tweaks” on CBD regulations that are expected to go into effect by the start of next year. These regulations will cover CBD vapes and flower as well as infused drinks and foods in order to establish essential safety and quality guidelines.
“We think of this in terms of consumer protection,” Bernabe said, according to Marijuana Moment. “We’re really doing it across the board on this. We’re really looking at every product class and trying to strike a balance between consumer protection and letting people have what they’re obviously using extensively for health and wellness.”