Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed a legalization of marijuana, for recreational use by adults, during the unveiling of his agenda for the first 100 days of the new year.
While covered very briefly in his speech, legalizing marijuana for adult use is part of a sweeping criminal justice reform agenda heading into the 2019 legislative session. It’s not clear whether a legalization of marijuana would be coupled with expunging the records of those who have committed low-level drug offenses.
The policy stance is a clear shift: Only a year ago, Cuomo called marijuana a “gateway drug.”
Cuomo on Monday at the New York City Bar Association charted Albany’s course through March, when the state budget is due. It's a vastly different makeup than he's encountered as governor, with an all-Democratic Legislature for the first time in a decade. The majorities are expected to enable the passage of other long-sought provisions backed by liberals, ranging from making it easier to vote, overhauling campaign finance regulations, bolstering abortion rights and criminal justice reforms.
When Cuomo took office in 2011, he modeled himself in part off Al Smith, the anti-Prohibition governor who re-organized the state’s bureaucracy and became the first Catholic nominee for president of a major party in 1928. Now, as his third term approaches amid a radically altered political landscape nearly eight years later, Cuomo is turning to another New York governor for inspiration, framing his proposals as an agenda inspired by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first 100 days as president, setting in motion the New Deal.
His speech itself acted an unofficial State of the State, a speech the governor traditionally gives in January. He’s signaled he will not give one this year, but will combine both that address and his budget presentation into one event as he has done in the past.
The pacing of 2019 will be different from a lot of recent years in which the first three months in Albany represented a lot of waiting around for the budget negotiations to even begin. The action in the new year will start early.