New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top marijuana advisor said in a recent interview that efforts to legalize marijuana will be introduced again through the state budget in January. State regulations on hemp-derived CBD products will also have new regulations that will include infused foods and drinks.

Marijuana reform enacted by April 2021

The goal is to enact the reform in New York by April of 2021, after failing to implement the past two years. Directives from state regulators forbid CBD in food and beverages to this day. 

Assistant Counsel Axel Bernabe, Governor Cuomo’s top marijuana adviser, has made these plans known through an interview with Canopy Growth Corp’s David Culver. He talked about the need for marijuana reform in New York and that new plans for legislation will serve as a model for other states. 

Focus on minority and economic development

The main focus, he stated, would be on prioritizing social equity and economic development through these efforts. 

Gov. Cuomo has included marijuana legalization for two years in his budget proposal for New York. However, it always gets stopped through negotiation. Legislators have been unable to determine how tax revenue from the cannabis market will be handled.

Other issues in the past included ensuring fairness for minority communities affected by the war on drugs. 

Push for marijuana legalization from different fronts

However, the push for recreational marijuana legalization New York has come from several different fronts. Nearby states such as Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont have very recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Additionally, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are well underway to legalization. 

New York’s $6 million deficit could help to legalize marijuana

Another key element is the $6 million deficit the state of New York faces, even before COVID-19 and how legal marijuana tax revenue could aid in this. Current estimates show the cannabis market could bring in at least $300 million in one year. 

Imprecise Hemp Extracts bill signed in 2019

Back in 2019, the state of New York passed a marijuana decriminalization law that allowed for increased amounts for weed possession without facing criminal charges. It also included expunging the records of people that had been previously convicted of low-level drug charges. 

Licenses were to expire on Oct. 31, until the extension of New York’s Hemp Pilot program last year, which extends licenses for 700 growers in the state until 2021. 

Although Gov. Cuomo signed a Hemp Extract bill into law in late 2019, the specifics have not been issued. This put the local cannabis industry to a halt. 

The law attempted to create a framework for growing and processing hemp, which produces smaller, traceable amounts of THC. However, the law’s framework had the country’s strictest standards. 

Public Safety key in new marijuana legalization proposal

To this regard, Bernabe said in his interview that the public safety and economic development aspects of the Governor’s new marijuana legalization proposal were some of the most exciting elements. 

This would translate to more social equality, especially for communities affected by drug laws. 

Hemp Extracts bill didn’t include CBD regulations

The Hemp Extracts bill, however, did not cover the inclusion of CBD in food items and drinks, as noted by Gov. Cuomo in December. Cuomo was going to address these specifics in a “hemp summit” this past Spring. However, it was further postponed due to the pandemic. 

Bernabe told Culver that the state’s cannabis legislation is leaning towards food and beverages. The state is currently working on new rules for this. It is expected to be limited to products with no more than 24 milligrams per serving, so the regulations would start “low and go slow”. 

CBD in food and drinks & consumer protection

He also said that they think of regulating CBD in food and drinks in terms of consumer protection, since the products are already out there in some way. “There is no sense in trying to pretend they’re not”, he stated. 

They’re looking at every product class and looking for a balance between consumer protection and giving people access to the plant which “they’re obviously using extensively for health and wellness.” 

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