New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on Tuesday that he plans to meet with the governors of Connecticut and New Jersey to discuss ways to create consistency within each state’s respective marijuana programs as they move forward with plans to legalize.
“I want to talk to Connecticut, and then I want to talk to Jersey, about having a regional symmetry on vaping products and marijuana,” he said during an interview on Long Island News Radio. “For one state to do it, it makes no sense if the neighboring state has a totally different policy, because you then just incentivize people to drive over the border and buy it there.”
He also expressed concerns that if people were to travel across state borders to purchase cannabis, they might consume while driving, too.
“We are serious in this state about legalizing recreational use of marijuana, but it has to be done right and protected and I want to start with Connecticut and see if there’s not an openness to come up with common parameters on a policy. Otherwise, it’s counterproductive, as I said before, people drive across the border, they buy a better product, or they buy a cheaper product, or they buy marijuana with more THC, or they buy marijuana that comes in a different form, and now you have people driving and possibly smoking marijuana at the same time.”
The interview also touched on vaping and the need to implement regulations to prevent youth consumption. Cuomo drew a parallel to rules for marijuana, suggesting that cannabis gummy bears could be banned like flavored cigarettes to avoid appealing to young people.
Listen to Cuomo’s marijuana remarks below:
That’s the second major restriction the governor has recently floated. Last week, he hinted that his administration might consider pushing for a ban on smoking marijuana when the state legalizes—a policy he backed for New York’s medical cannabis program in legislation enacted in 2014.
As Cuomo said, however, if neighboring states implement legal marijuana programs that don’t include such bans, that raises the possibility that New Yorkers will travel outside the state to get products, so it will likely be a point of conversation when he meets with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) on Wednesday and then New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) later.
“These are the kinds of issues we’re going to have to think through, not just in New York’s policy, but to the extent we can have coordination with the other states it would be better,” Cuomo said in a separate interview with WNYC on Tuesday.
The governor also reiterated that the lack of federal action on marijuana reform means that states have had to take it upon themselves to develop regulations, and with that, “you have the question of coordination” between states.
Listen to the interview with WNYC below:
He said that issues officials from the different states should discuss include THC limits, age restrictions, taxes, allowable product preparation and volume of sales. The goal of the meetings is to ideally “arrive at some kind of commonality.”
“We are just starting conversations,” he said. “I’ve spoke to Governor Lamont in Connecticut. He’s interested, and it’s just common sense, actually. You don’t want people driving distances to buy marijuana products and then driving back.”
Lamont and Cuomo met for a fishing trip last month, during which they discussed cannabis legalization plans, making Cuomo’s closing nautical metaphor in the new radio interview especially apt.
“If we don’t do it and we don’t make progress, no one else is going to help us because we’re on our own, which is a little frightening but it’s a little liberating,” Cuomo said. “We’re in a boat, we’re in the middle of the ocean, the engine doesn’t work and we’re on our own so we need to start swimming.”
While plans to get cannabis legalized in New York stalled earlier this year when negotiations didn’t produce a passable bill, Cuomo has emphasized that legalization will remain an administrative priority.
“I want to make sure that we have as a major priority in next year’s legislative session, legalizing recreational marijuana,” he said on Tuesday. “And to the extent practicable I want to see if we can coordinate with the other states because, by definition, we put together one system, New Jersey puts together another system, Connecticut puts together a third system—I don’t want competition or shopping if we can avoid it among the systems.”
Both Lamont and Murphy also pushed to get cannabis legalized in their states this year. But while there were multiple successful committee votes and hearings on legalization legislation in Connecticut, it didn’t reach the full floor. Likewise in New Jersey, legislative efforts to legalize failed, with lawmakers suggesting they might advance the issue through a referendum for voters to decide on next year.
Cuomo signed legislation in July expanding the state’s decriminalization law and creating a pathway for expungements for individuals with prior cannabis convictions.
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This story was updated to include comments from a second Cuomo interview.
Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.