By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday said legalizing marijuana for recreational use would be one of his top legislative priorities next year.
The move, which would add New York to the list of 10 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that have legalized the drug, could bring in more than $1.3 billion in annual tax revenue, according to a report commissioned by the governor and released last summer.
Neighboring New Jersey is also weighing whether to allow recreational use of marijuana. Governor Phil Murphy, a supporter of the proposal, and leaders in the Democratic-controlled legislature have been working on a bill for several months.
The added revenue could help address a number of needs, including New York City’s troubled subway system, which is desperately in need of major repairs and upgrades.
In a speech outlining his plans for 2019, Cuomo told the New York City Bar Association that legalizing marijuana would contribute to a fairer justice system. Many proponents of de-criminalizing marijuana have argued that enforcement disproportionately harms minorities.
“We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma, and let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” Cuomo said.
Democrats control both of the state’s legislative chambers after they captured the state Senate in November’s election.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)