On October 17, 2019, New York Governor Mario Cuomo (D) assembled governors from a number of Northeast states to discuss coordinating their efforts on proposed legalization of the adult use of cannabis in 2020. In opening the meeting, he said, “I think we’re much stronger when we work together and that’s what this meeting is all about.” Together the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania discussed common themes with Cuomo along with representatives from other states including Massachusetts (which legalized adult use in 2016), Rhode Island and Colorado (which legalized in 2014).
The group agreed on several broad principles in their efforts to move towards legal adult use cannabis. These focus on market regulation and empowerment, public health, public safety and enforcement and vaping best practices. Included in these principles are ideas such as having similar tax structures across the states, ensuring industry access to those impacted by the war on drugs, restrictions on advertising, discouraging over-consumption, uniform standard types of drug tests, strengthening enforcement against the illicit market and implementing vape safety standards.
State legislatures tend to have limited sessions to take action, but New York and New Jersey both hope to legalize next year after both failing earlier this year. It is not clear whether New Jersey will pursue a voter referendum (this is not legally possible in New York) or legislation, as they attempted to do earlier this year. New York presumably would move ahead with a legislative approach.
Connecticut also failed to pass legislation earlier this year against well-organized opposition. CT Governor Ned Lamont (R) prefers a regional approach if possible, stating after the multilateral meeting, “I think I would only consider it if we were doing it in conjunction with other states. If Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania — if we bring in Massachusetts and coordinate our policies there, rather than being an outlier — I think it’s something I would push.”
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) recently dropped his long opposition to legalization of adult use, but faces a challenge in doing so from his Republican-controlled legislature.
Many laud the multilateral approach as yielding “strength in numbers” but some are concerned that the political challenges of coordinating this many states’ legislatures may be daunting.