Will New York's Recreational Marijuana Policies Be as Dumb as California's?

Gov. Cuomo throws his support behind a ban on home cultivation, possibly on behalf of already entrenched pot groups.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Albin Lohr-Jones/ZUMA Press/Newscom

New York may be following California's bad example and legalizing recreational marijuana in all the wrong ways, guaranteeing an oppressive, potentially punitive environment where the government decides the market's winners and losers.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's support and recommendation for legalization in New York apparently came with a very significant string attached: no home cultivation allowed.

A month before Cuomo detailed his recommendations for legalization, Marijuana Moment reports, he received a policy statement from the existing medical marijuana industry officials with their own ideas. It an entire chapter devoted to warning against allowing New Yorkers from growing their own marijuana at home.

Kyle Jaeger submitted a records request to get a copy of this 29-page memo from the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association. Here are the five reasons why the entrenched industry warns against letting people grow their own pot (as summarized by Jaeger):

  1. Home grow will make it impossible for the state to eliminate the black market.

  2. Home grow will make it impossible for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal products, thus frustrating enforcement efforts.

  3. Home grow will undermine the state's harm reduction goal of ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is grown without noxious pesticides or other contaminants.

  4. Home grow will undermine the state's public health interest in ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is tested, packaged, and labeled correctly.

  5. Home grow will cost the state tax revenue, thus hindering the state's ability to fund priorities such as drug abuse treatment and community investment.

Weirdly, "Us growers may not make as much money" did not make the list. But they of course made sure to point out that the state may not make as much money. They know their audience!

Let's dismiss the dumbest of these arguments first. Bans are what prompt black markets to crop up. It's almost comically stupid for a bunch of medical marijuana dispensaries to suggest that legalizing a home-grow operation somehow fosters a black market. And they most certainly know it. But government officials are generally unwilling to admit that they are the cause of, not the solution to, black markets.

The health questions raised by home-grown marijuana are issues that consumers should evaluate for themselves. The industry's position here resembles the arguments of people who try to prevent amateur home chefs from selling their baked goods to the public. In both cases, the public health argument is a fig leaf covering a desire to protect someone's market share.

As for the last point: Just think of how much revenue a state could get if it banned cooking at home entirely, forcing residents to get all their meals from restaurants, thereby requiring everybody to pay more in sales taxes. That's fundamentally the logic here: The organization is arguing that the state should legally ban a behavior unless it produces a revenue stream for the state.

In California, the state's failure to earn revenue and the continued dominance of a marijuana black market stand as indictments of the state's regulations. The taxes are too high. The restrictions are too severe. The hoops to jump through are too numerous. In Los Angeles, the city's entrenched medical marijuana shops got to jump to the front of the line when it came time to hand out recreational marijuana permits. And now the city is dragging its feet in letting new entrepreneurs join the market.

In Los Angeles, the obvious pandering to the established marijuana vendors is fostering a continued black market. If people can't get what they're looking for cheaply and efficiently while still following the law, a certain number of them are going to be willing to break the law. And yes, California does allow for home cultivation for personal use—up to six plants. That's not what's causing a black market any more than allowing people to grow their own corn is what's creating a black market for homemade tamales.

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  1. “”4.Home grow will undermine the state’s public health interest in ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is tested, packaged, and labeled correctly.””

    labeled correctly? ha ha. This isn’t the Grape Kush I ordered.

  2. If you think that’s bad, wait until you see the crony capitalist monstrosity New Jersey is about to impose. In addition to favoring unions, minorities, women and veterans in the licensing process and outlawing homegrown, the politicians here learned one thing from California: the pot sales tax will be based on weight, not a percentage of the purchase price, so if the price of pot falls as in California, the state’s take will stay the same.

    1. Too bad they won’t learn the *real* lesson from CA, which is “if you tax the legal stuff too much, people will just keep buying black market”.

  3. Hopefully they don’t forget to exempt current and former law enforcement.

  4. I have faith in Cuomo. His policy will be at least as dumb as California’s.

  5. Except for #3 (which I don’t think is a very big deal either, black market cannabis is by and large pretty safe and high quality at this point), all of those 5 points seem like positives to me.

  6. Coumo is simply heeding the lessons learned from the deadly and destructive homebrewer fed alcohol black market. Why, just last week, a neighbor down the street was robbed and had two full cases of homebrew stolen. Later that night, the cops found the perps. Their cargo was jacked. Perps were dead on the street. Blood everywhere. It was nasty.

  7. Of course, of course.

  8. Dumber. That is my prediction.

    New York never was that great.

  9. The point of legalization should be enhancement of freedom. Leave people alone. Let people live their lives in peace.

    Legalization should not be driven by glutenous politicians counting their expected tax revenue, which they will use to corrupt democracy and stuff their own pockets. They just want to be the biggest cartel. El Chapo is a more moral character.

    Regulate marijuana in the same way Okra is regulated.

  10. This is what you market progressives wanted, all taxed, regulated and crony-commercialized. At least D.C. did it right.

  11. Michigan actually did legalization right. A low (10%) excise tax and minimal restrictions on home-growing (up to 12 plants). Did this happen because Michigan pols are smarter and less corrupt? Ha! No — because it was legalized by ballot initiative, not the legislative sausage factory.

    1. Yet they still managed to fuck it up.
      Can I buy legal pot, without a medical marijuana card? No, I may not.
      Michigan is still fucking up the medical marijuana business, and they haven’t gotten around to “but it’s legal” yet.
      I’m with Ecoli ? regulate it the same way okra is regulated.

  12. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say Washington? I mean, I know the “disappointing” results in CA have been getting publicity but we do allow homegrows (up to 6 plants, and honestly if that doesn’t keep you and your friends in more than enough weed you either have a drug problem or are a terrible gardner*), unlike Washington.

    I don’t understand the point of the article. Complains about NY considering banning homegrows, then says there are all these problems with legalization in CA where homegrown is legal. I would use CA as a negative comparison example for the policies that would be the same.

    *yes, standard libertarian disclaimers yada yada

    1. Homegrown is cool and a good point, but they have shut down most of the dispensaries in the Inland Empire after weed was legalized. Which messes up the whole plan to regulate and tax. I am a family man, so I don’t want big fat pot plants in my back yard. I just want to be able to seemlessly buy a joint if I desire. Which I would do once in a blue moon.

  13. “Home grow will undermine the state’s public health interest in ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is tested, packaged, and labeled correctly.”

    Yeah, you better test it. We’ve an untold number of deaths from untested pot.

  14. I can grow my own corn? I didn’t know about that. Are you sure? I’d rather be safe and won’t do it.

  15. — Please legalize my legal marijuana.

  16. Silly question. Of course!

  17. California did not do it right. I live hear, I know. They California state government does seem surprised though that their dumb plan is falling apart. I am all for the legalization. But the implementation has made it harder to run a dispensary, and harder to visit one, not easier. NYC I feel great pity for you!

  18. Dumber.

    They stand on the shoulders of morons.

    1. They stand on the shoulders of morons.



  19. These arguments are just as valid for banning anything people might do for themselves at home. Home brewing of beer and wine, having chickens for home fresh eggs, having a vegetable garden. Heck even allowing people to prepare and eat their own meals at home undermines health guidelines applied to restaurants

  20. NEW YORK: Hold my beer.

    CALIFORNIA: No, *you* hold *my* beer.

    NEW YORK: How about I hold yours and you hold mine.

    CALIFORNIA: Sounds good.

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