Guv’s ‘listening sessions’ to spark talks on legal pot

Governor Cuomo hopes to ignite discussion about pot legalization through a series of “listening sessions” around the state.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | On Aug. 30 — the day right after his televised debate with the strongly pro-pot Cynthia Nixon — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a series of “listening sessions” on regulated marijuana will be held across New York State in September and October.

The sessions’ purpose, according to a press release, is “to garner input from community members and key stakeholders” on the implementation of a regulated marijuana program in New York State.

This input, in turn, will assist the governor’s Regulated Marijuana Workgroup in drafting legislation for an adult-use marijuana program for the state Legislature to consider in the upcoming session, which begins in January.

“Community input is critical as we work to draft balanced and comprehensive legislation on a regulated marijuana program in New York,” Cuomo said. “The multiagency report identified the benefits of a regulated marijuana market, and with these listening sessions, we are taking another important step to develop a model program for New York. We look forward to hearing what New Yorkers in every corner of the state have to say.”

Fifteen listening sessions will be conducted, starting in Albany on Sept. 5. The Manhattan session will be Thurs., Sept. 20, at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Tribeca Performance Arts Center, 199 Chambers St., Theater 2.

All sessions will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The sessions will feature facilitated discussion and will be open to the public. To accommodate all those planning to attend, preregistration will be encouraged.

For more information on regulated marijuana, go to ny.gov/programs/assessing-regulated-marijuana-new-york. To register for the Manhattan event, click here.

In January, Cuomo commissioned a multiagency study, led by the state Department of Health, to assess the impact of a regulated marijuana program here. The resulting Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State was delivered to the governor in July. The impact assessment examined the health, economic, public safety and criminal justice impact of a regulated marijuana program in New York State and the consequences to New York State of legalization in surrounding states.

The study found that the positive impacts of a regulated marijuana market in New York outweigh the potential negative ones, and that “areas that may be a cause for concern can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations.”

The governor next announced the creation of a Regulated Marijuana Workgroup to advise the state on legislative and regulatory approaches needed to protect public health, provide consumer protection, ensure public safety, address social justice issues and capture and invest tax revenue.

The Workgroup includes experts from around the state, plus government representatives in public health, mental health, substance use, taxation and finance, law enforcement and public safety.

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