States to Watch in 2021: New York

In advance of the 2021 legislative sessions, NORML will be providing a more detailed break down of legislative efforts in various states across the nation that are poised to enact significant marijuana reforms next year. This is the latest in a series of blogs examining where state-specific reform efforts stand.

Following the decision of voters in neighboring New Jersey to legalize marijuana, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has acknowledged that the “pressure will be on” New York lawmakers to advance similar adult-use legalization legislation next year. Democrats will hold a super-majority in the Senate in 2021 after the results of the 2020 election.

When discussing balancing the budget for next year, Cuomo said “Are there other ways to get revenue? How about marijuana?” The New York governor has included marijuana legalization as part of his annual budget proposal for the past two years, but failed it to gain the needed support from lawmakers.

Some of the state’s top legislative leaders also expressed support for the policy change. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently said that “it’s not so much a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and it’s a matter of how” the state legalizes cannabis for adult use.

“There’s still back and forth, but I suspect this year this will actually get done,” said Minority Leader Will Barclay, the top Republican in the state Assembly.

New York’s legislative session begins on January 6, 2021, and lawmakers can pre-file legislation until then.

According to a recent statewide survey commissioned by Sienna College, 60 percent of registered voters endorse legalizing marijuana — the highest level of support ever identified in their polling.