"I think we're actually ahead" on legalizing marijuana for recreational use in New York state.

Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 in a conversation with reporters

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

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 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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era rule earlier this year that allowed states to legalize marijuana without federal interference.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.

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"I think we're actually ahead" on legalizing marijuana for recreational use in New York state.
New York
Wednesday, April 11, 2018