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Democratic Governors Split on Marijuana Legalization

Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo, two democratic governors split on marijuana legalization.
Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo: Left to right. By Lennox McLendon/AP, Mary Altaffer/AP


Democratic Governors Split on Marijuana Legalization

Democratic governors across the country are stuck at a crossroads when the issue of legalizing marijuana is brought up, whether it’s medicinally or recreationally. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York is still weighing out the risks and rewards of medicinal marijuana legalization, but unlike many he is using caution.

“Medical marijuana, I understand the upside—I also understand the downside,” Cuomo told the New York press in January. “I’m not proposing a law, so it’s not the legislature telling me what I have to do, and that gives me great comfort because if it goes bad, we can correct or improve all within our own control.”

Cuomo’s stance is one that is shared by his democratic counterpart Gov. Jerry Brown of California, who is faced with the mounting pressure of ending the recreational prohibition of marijuana in his state. When presenting California’s state budget this year, Brown indicated the state would be keeping a watchful eye on the effects that recreational legalization will have on Colorado, to determine marijuana’s future in California.

A state like California, which is one of the 20 states that has legalized medical marijuana, remains content with the amount of liberty they’ve given the community of supporters. Just don’t expect them, or other states, to be overzealous with the idea of legalizing the drug recreationally.

As Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut noted in an interview, “Perhaps the best way to handle this is to watch those experiments that are underway.”

Connecticut, which had legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, is not ready to end the recreational prohibition, either, according to Malloy.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, and I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Malloy said.

Despite hesitation from these democratic governors to dive into recreational legalization, the sole reason for not completely dismissing the issue has been due to the estimated revenue figures for marijuana taxes in Colorado. With numbers suggesting that the state could bring in more than $100 million a year, eyes are open.

In New York, Cuomo has looked to use an executive order to revive a 1980 law that was used to create a marijuana research program run by hospitals. He views it as a safer and controlled alternative.

It’s an approach that New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer happens to be comfortable with. “I’d be leery of just opening up all the floodgates,” said Schumer when speaking on medical marijuana in New York. “On the other hand, there’s a compassionate argument. Some doctors say when you have a serious type of cancer; medically prescribed marijuana is the only way to go.”

The Compassionate Care Act is a new bill momentarily being pushed to legalize medical marijuana in New York. It’s supported by four Republican senators and is sponsored by Democratic senator Diane Savino.

However, Businessweek reported that on a March 29 conference call with reporters, Cuomo stated that there haven’t been any serious discussions of any alternatives to his plans.

How does your governor feel about marijuana? Tell us in the comments below!

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