Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana all passed legislation on Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana.
This means that recreational use is now legal in 15 states, including most of the states that border New York.
It also means for many New Yorkers, it will take less than an hour to drive to one of these states to purchase legal weed.
Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, says that with red states like South Dakota and Montana passing legalization, it shows that marijuana is not as partisan of an issue as it used to be.
“With each bordering state enacting this policy, it’s going to make it harder and harder for lawmakers in Albany to ignore this issue,” Schweich explained. “And the choice is clear, be pragmatic or hand over millions of dollars of tax revenue to other states.”
The senate sponsor of the bill to legalize marijuana in New York, State Senator Liz Krueger agrees that this is now a bipartisan issue. She says the question people are now asking is why has it not been passed already.
“New York state has the largest marijuana market in the country, it’s just not legal,” Senator Krueger explained. “And so when people tell me ‘I don’t know if I love the idea of marijuana being on my streets,’ I’m like, ‘hold your hat it’s already on your streets.’”
The legislature and the governor have never been able to come to an agreement on key issues such as how much to tax it, where that revenue should go, who will be able to sell it, and more. But Krueger says the longer New York waits, the more tax money it will be losing to its neighbors.
“It will be no problem being a New York City resident and just plopping across the bridge or tunnel to buy marijuana,” Krueger said. “So why do we want to give them our revenue?”
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who called marijuana a gateway drug until his primary race against Cynthia Nixon, admitted that there is now increased pressure to pass this legislation, especially in a time when New York could use the extra revenue.
“The pressure will be on because we need the money so badly,” Cuomo said during a radio interview.
Krueger is confident that this legislation will be passed this next session and called on the governor to bring them to the table.
“I invite the governor to invite me to any table he likes, and I will bring Crystal People-Stokes (the State Assembly sponsor of the bill) with me because we are arm in arm in supporting our bill and knowing what we need,” Krueger insisted.
It would take about three years to see a real return on the tax money from legalizing recreational marijuana.