Hashing It Out: Marijuana Legalization in New York

Marjiuana Legalization in New York Seminar

The Government Law Center kicked off its 2019 Warren M. Anderson Breakfast Seminar series by tackling an issue that was much debated by New York’s lawmakers but ended up—at least for now—on the legislative back burner.

The seminar, Challenges in Legalizing Marijuana, held February 12 at the state Capitol, was anything but a debate between marijuana supporters and those opposed to legalization.

Rather, it was “a program identifying the issues that policymakers will be facing in attempting to legalize a long-prohibited substance and the difficulties that they will find in trying to resolve those issues,” wrote Richard Rifkin, the session’s moderator who also serves as a consultant to the New York State Bar Association and a member of the GLC’s advisory board. “[T]he audience was offered the thoughts of a law enforcement official, an academic, and a practicing lawyer.”

Namely, David Soares ’99, Albany County district attorney; Professor Julie Steiner, who teaches cannabis law and policy at Western New England School of Law; and Sara Payne, cannabis team leader at Barclay Damon. They raised concerns from social equity to public safety, from the fairness of the licensing system to how the state will deal with tax revenues.

“While all of them believed that the time had come for legalization, their perspectives varied,” wrote Rifkin, adding the panel made it clear that these complex issues “need to be resolved if an effective marijuana legalization program is to be adopted by the state.” The final three Anderson Breakfast events explored the redistricting process, reforming and restructuring New York’s court system, and rural renewal.


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