The New York State budget, which took effect yesterday to start the new fiscal year on Monday, April 1, does not include a plan for the legalization of adult recreational marijuana use. Instead, Governor Cuomo and the New York Legislature intend to work on developing a more concrete plan for the legalization of recreational marijuana before the close of the session on June 19th.

Probably the biggest single issue that will not be addressed will be the legalization of marijuana,” Cuomo told reporters. “In concept we have an agreement, but…it is complex, and the devil is in the details…if it’s not done after the budget, I believe we get it done after the budget.”

There are currently ten states, including the District of Columbia, that have legalized adult recreational marijuana use: Colorado (2012), Washington (2012), Alaska (2014), Oregon (2014), District of Columbia (2014), California (2016), Maine (2016), Massachusetts (2016), Nevada (2016), Vermont (2018) and Michigan (2018).

Support for legalizing recreational marijuana remains high in New York, but groups such as the Parent Teacher Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and certain law enforcement unions are becoming more vocal about their opposition to the establishment of a regulated marijuana program. On February 7, 2019, the New York State Sheriffs Association and State Association of Chiefs of Police spoke out against marijuana legalization because, among other reasons, there are no methods in place, or funding, to enforce laws against driving while under the influence of marijuana.

In addition, certain counties in New York, including Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Putnam and Chemung counties, have indicated that they would opt out of all cannabis related commercial businesses. As we discussed in one of our earlier posts, the New York Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act includes a clause allowing counties and cities with populations over 100,000 to opt-out of allowing cannabis business license types within their jurisdictions. If opting out, as long as an individual is 21 years of age or older, they would still be permitted to possess, consume, and purchase cannabis from other counties that opt in.

On March 15, 2019, the Nassau County Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation issued its Report in which the Task Force “recommends that if the New York State Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act is passed in its current form, that Nassau County Opt Out of all cannabis related commercial businesses.” Such potential opt outs do not seem to worry Governor Cuomo, however. “I don’t think it’s determinative,” he said back in March 2019. “It does make a difference on the statewide revenues and it will cost those municipalities, localities that opt out because then they would not get the local share of the revenues. But it’s not helpful politically to the passage.”

New York is not the only state hitting a roadblock in trying to get recreational marijuana legalized. Governor Phil Murphy attempted to have New Jersey be the second state to legalize marijuana legislatively (Vermont was the first), rather than through a public voter referendum. The vote on his bill, that would have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in New Jersey, was called off at the last minute however due to a lack of support for the bill in the state Senate.