Facts are under assault in 2020.

We can't fight back misinformation about the election and COVID-19 without you. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact

More Info

I would like to contribute

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo claimed that New York state is ahead of other states on legalizing recreational marijuana. (Courtesy: Cuomo's Flickr account) Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo claimed that New York state is ahead of other states on legalizing recreational marijuana. (Courtesy: Cuomo's Flickr account)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo claimed that New York state is ahead of other states on legalizing recreational marijuana. (Courtesy: Cuomo's Flickr account)

By Dan Clark April 17, 2018

Cuomo says New York state is ahead of others on recreational marijuana, but it isn't

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo touts New York state as a progressive beacon for the rest of the country.

But his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, says that’s not true when it comes to recreational marijuana. It’s not legal in New York state.

Cuomo was asked about the issue during a recent exchange with reporters on Long Island.

"Given what’s happened in Massachusetts, California, what could happen in New Jersey, do you feel as if New York is behind on this at all?" NY1 Reporter Zack Fink asked Cuomo.

"No, I think we’re actually ahead on it," Cuomo said. "We announced months ago that we were going to study the legalization issue precisely for that reason. You have Massachusetts, you have New Jersey talking about it."

Earlier this year, Cuomo asked the state Department of Health to study what legalizing marijuana would mean for New York state. The study will reportedly be finished this fall.

Some states have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. So, what was Cuomo talking about when he said "we’re actually ahead on it?"

What Cuomo was saying

Cuomo did not mean to say New York state was ahead of other states that already legalized recreational marijuana, a spokesperson said. He meant that the Department of Health study would put New York state ahead of others in responding to the federal government's new position on state marijuana laws.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era rule earlier this year that allowed states to legalize marijuana without federal interference. States with legal marijuana have mostly shrugged off the decision.

Context matters here. A reporter asked Cuomo if New York state was falling behind states that already legalized recreational marijuana. Cuomo said New York state was not, and his full response makes little mention of the federal position.

States with legal marijuana

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.

The state legislature in Vermont recently voted to make recreational marijuana legal later this year. The other states legalized recreational use through ballot referendums. 

New Jersey and Michigan may be next. New Jersedy Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, supports legalization and wants lawmakers to approve a bill this year. Advocates in Michigan have gathered enough signatures to put legalization on the ballot in November.

Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012.

New York state, however, is taking steps toward legalization that other states have not. The study from the state Department of Health leaves the option for legalization on the table.

New York state marijuana laws

Cuomo has been opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana. He has called it a "gateway drug."

But he supports decriminalizing marijuana -- ending criminal penalties for possessing and using small amounts of the drug. Selling it would still carry a penalty.

New York state legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2014. The state’s program has expanded since its inception, allowing more conditions to be treated with the drug and wider access statewide.

Our ruling

Cuomo said New York state is ahead of other states on legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

That’s not true. Nine other states have already legalized recreational marijuana. Other states have also taken steps toward legalization that New York state has not. New Jersey’s governor has called on the legislature to legalize the drug, while voters in Michigan are expected to decide on legalization later this year.

We rate his claim False.

Share the Facts
2
1
7
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
False
"I think we're actually ahead" on legalizing marijuana for recreational use in New York state.
New York
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Our Sources

Email conversation with Richard Azzopardi, spokesperson for Cuomo

Phone conversation with Abbey Fashouer, spokesperson for Cuomo

Cynthia Nixon video supporting recreational marijuana

"Cuomo says he remains opposed to recreational marijuana," POLITICO New York, Feb. 2017

"This map shows every state that has legalized marijuana," Business Insider, Jan. 23, 2018

"State Marijuana Laws in 2018 Map," Governing Magazine, March 30, 2018

"Marijuana laws by state: Where is weed legal in 2018?," SILive.com, Feb. 6, 2018

"Murphy move to legalize recreational pot gets fractured response from N.J. delegation," WHYY, April 9, 2018

"Milestones in U.S. Marijuana Laws," New York Times, 2013

"Gov. Cuomo proposes decriminalizing marijuana," NewYorkUpstate.com, Jan. 12, 2017

National Conference of State Legislatures ‘Deep Dive’ on marijuana laws project

National Conference of State Legislatures marijuana overview page

"Examining marijuana arrests," New York Times, 2012

"Phil Murphy wants legal weed law in N.J. by end of year," NJ.com, March 13, 2018

"Vermont is the first state to legalize marijuana through legislature," Washington Post, Jan. 24, 2018

"Michigan lawmakers consider legalizing recreational marijuana before November ballot," WDIV, Click On Detroit, April 4, 2018

2013 Idaho resolution to oppose legalizing marijuana

"Idaho is surrounded by states that eased marijuana laws. Will we join them?" Idaho Statesman, Oct. 11, 2017

"Marijuana Legalization 2018: Which states might consider cannabis laws this year?" Newsweek, Jan. 2, 2018

"Idaho House OKs bill allowing use of marijuana derivative," KMVT, Feb. 28, 2018

"New York medical marijuana program continues to grow," The Daily Gazette, Jan. 10, 2018

"Sessions nixes Obama-era rules leaving states alone that legalize pot," CNN, Jan. 4, 2018

"N.H. House punts on marijuana legalization; opts for further study", Concord Monitor, March 22, 2018

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Dan Clark

Cuomo says New York state is ahead of others on recreational marijuana, but it isn't

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up