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Cuomo, Lamont Team Up On Cannabis Policy

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2019 State of the State and budget address Tuesday in Albany.
Flickr: GovernorAndrewCuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2019 State of the State and budget address Tuesday in Albany.

Governor Andrew Cuomo traveled to Hartford Connecticut on Wednesday to meet with that state’s Governor, Ned Lamont, and to announce a joint effort to limit vaping and work toward legalizing the adult recreational use of marijuana.

The two governors met in the midst of a health crisis related to vaping that has sickened hundreds across the country, nearly 100 in New York, and over a dozen in Connecticut, a phenomena Cuomo calls “frightening.”

Cuomo says the two states need to work together to regulate the vaping of nicotine products, and to legalize the adult recreational use of marijuana, so that there are uniform rules in both states.

“Because it makes no sense to pass one set of rules when they can just drive across the border to Connecticut to have a different set of rules and vice versa,” Cuomo said.

The sale of flavored e-cigarettes is banned in New York, effective October 4, Connecticut still allows their sale. Governor Lamont says he still wants to do more research to make sure any potential ban doesn’t drive vaping users to the black market. But Lamont agrees that their needs to be joint regulatory plan.

Lamont says its counterproductive for each state to have “it’s little patchwork of different rules and regulations.” 

“We don’t want to give up marijuana to the black market,”  Lamont said. “We’ve seen how dangerous that can be.”

Many of the vaping illnesses and deaths so far seem linked to illegal cannabis THC products laced with Vitamin E oil, which is unsafe to ingest into the lungs.

The two states will hold a summit on October 17 to discuss details of legalizing marijuana, including regulating the THC content of the products. THC is the substance in cannabis that gets a user high. They will also discuss how to tax sales of cannabis, and to make sure that police forces are properly trained to deal with the potential of people driving under the influence of the drug.

Cuomo says he hopes to have a new proposal on legalizing marijuana to present to the state legislature in 2020.

“My goal is to have a proposal by January that I can make in my State of the State to my New York State legislature,” Cuomo said. “And hopefully, we can come up with some common premises for the program.”

Cuomo proposed legalizing recreational marijuana for adults in last year’s State of the State, and similar bills had major party sponsors and support in the Democratic led legislature. But the State Senate did not muster enough votes to pass the proposal.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a marijuana legalization advocacy group, reacted positively, saying they are happy to hear the governors pushing for a “tightly regulated legal system for marijuana production, processing, and sales.” They say that, with no action on the federal level,  states need to take the lead.

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