New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday pledged for the second year in a row to legalise recreational cannabis, looking for his state to become the nation’s 12th to do so and saying that it could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Mr Cuomo, a Democrat, made the legalisation of cannabis a key priority as he outlined his agenda for 2020, saying taxes imposed by a regulatory scheme could bring some $300m (£230m) into the state’s coffers and confront injustices in enforcement of drug laws.
“For decades, communities of colour were disproportionately affected by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws. Last year we righted that injustice when we decriminalised possession,” Mr Cuomo said in his annual State of the State address, according to a transcript of the speech released by his office.
“This year let’s work with our neighbours New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, to coordinate a safe and fair system and let’s legalise adult use of marijuana,” Mr Cuomo said.
Last year, in his 2019 State of the State speech, Mr Cuomo had also declared his intention to legalise cannabis, citing the potential revenues and harm to poorer communities, but the effort foundered in the Democrat-controlled state legislature.
In addition to the 11 states where recreational use of marijuana is already legalised, New York joins several others expected to make that push in 2020, including neighbouring New Jersey, which tried and failed to pass such a bill last year.
Cannabis remains illegal under federal law and critics say legalisation at the state level is bad health policy, citing studies which show that the drug can be addictive and affect brain development in young people, in addition to the dangers associated with any kind of smoking.
Officials at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have said that vitamin E acetate, a cutting agent used in cannabis vape cartridges, may play a role in an outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries.
Mr Cuomo in his State of the State speech boasted that New York had “led the way” in banning flavoured vaping and urged passage of laws restricting the sale and advertisement of flavoured e-cigarettes.
“After all the millions of lives lost, big tobacco has come back to life in a different wrapper. They are now in vaping products. We know well the danger of nicotine addiction and we don’t yet know the dangers of vaping, but young Americans are dying to find out,” Mr Cuomo said in his speech.