Governors and legislative leaders from seven northeastern states are setting a course for a regional approach to marijuana legalization and regulation. The group held its first summit on October 17 and agreed to a set of “core principals” on issues related to market regulation, public health and safety, enforcement and vaping best practices.
“This issue is complicated, controversial and consequential,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the start of the meeting. “The goal of this summit is to collaborate with one another, share resources and think collectively as we try to figure this out. The federal government is supposed to get involved in issues that go beyond one state’s borders, but that is not happening,” Gov. Cuomo continued.
The New York governor’s comments were echoed by many of the other governors attending the summit. “In the absence of federal leadership, governors are coming together and taking a regional approach to vaping and cannabis regulations,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “The principals we’ve agreed to today will allow us to better coordinate our efforts as we address some of the most challenging issues facing our states.”
“[P]ermitting the illegal market to run unregulated, which is what is currently happening, is neither safe nor is it in the best interests of our residents. Cooperating as a coalition of sates on these issues is the best path forward,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.
In addition to Governors Cuomo, Raimondo and Lamont, others attending the summit were Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and legislative representatives from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Massachusetts has been a leader in marijuana legalization, legalizing its use for medicinal purposes in 2012 and adult recreational purposes in 2016. However, efforts to legalize adult recreational uses have failed in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
“The discussion today with my fellow governors resulted in meaningful agreements and can open the door for passage of sensible reforms,” said Governor Wolf. “Our impact is much greater when we break out of our own silos as individual states and collaborate on the tough issues plaguing our region and nation,” added Governor Murphy.
Among other things, the states agreed to work on taxing standards for marijuana businesses, supporting a regulatory architecture that ensures fair competition, ensuring small and diverse business participation in the cannabis industry, adopting vape product safety standards, and implementing meaningful social justice reforms such as expediting expungements or pardons for marijuana offenses.
The group also agreed to advocate for passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, federal legislation that would remove barriers to financial institution serving cannabis-related businesses. “So long as it remains difficult to open and maintain bank accounts, the state-legal marijuana industry will largely rely on cash to conduct business and operate, which results in public safety issues and creates unique burdens for legal marijuana businesses,” the group said in a statement.