By Carlo Versano
Sensing the shifting political winds, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reportedly planning to introduce a "green new deal" that would legalize recreational pot as part of the inaugural speech he will deliver from Ellis Island on New Year's Day.
Michael Gianaris, a New York state senator from Queens and member of the new Democratic majority in Albany, told Cheddar that "the time has come" for the Empire State to move forward on pot legalization.
"It's something that people are doing anyway," he said, arguing that the tax revenue generated from pot sales could help act as a form of "recompense" for minority communities adversely affected by decades of Draconian drug laws.
Will Bredderman of Crain's New York Business has been covering Cuomo's changing attitudes on marijuana, which the governor called a "gateway drug" just last year.
Now, with the state senate in the hands of Democrats after being controlled by Republicans more or less uninterrupted since the 1970s, liberal groups see this as the moment to chalk up a "fairly easy win" on an issue held dear to many progressives, according to Bredderman.
If New York legalizes marijuana for recreational use, experts believe it could bring in somewhere between $200 million and $700 million a year. That sounds like a lot, but think of it like this: the plan to modernize New York City's failing subway system calls for $40 billion in funding.
"It's really not that much money," Bredderman said. The bigger gain would be in jobs created and income tax generated ー from growing facilities to retail dispensaries. "That has potential to be quite large."
There's also what Bredderman called the "spin-off effects" from taking pot off the black market and easing enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses, which some state DAs have already committed to doing.
For Cuomo, the real win would be in the realm of politics, especially after the primary, in which he easily dispatched challenger Cynthia Nixon but was pressured by her supporters to move leftward for his final term in office. Marijuana legalization in a state like New York is likely to have bipartisan support, Bredderman said, and is widely popular among New Yorkers across demographics.
"A lot of people smoke marijuana," he said.
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