Cuomo Hires Rhode Island Official As New York Marijuana Czar

The appointment of Birenbaum was made public Monday in a release

 Among the 15 new hires announced Monday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, one stood out for stakeholders in the marijuana legalization battle: a person to head a new office of cannabis programs.

The hiring of Norman Birenbaum, who was a major force in pro-legalization efforts for the Rhode Island governor, is being taken by some officials as a sign Cuomo will push – perhaps more forcefully – efforts to legalize the drug in the coming 2020 session.

The appointment of Birenbaum was made public Monday in a release from Cuomo’s office announcing other recent senior-level administration hires.

Cuomo last year proposed to create a separate office to run all things related to marijuana legalization – including setting the price of the drug and who gets to grow and sell it. Talks fizzled, however, and the effort died when not enough support could be found among Democrats who now control the State Senate.

While people opposed to and supportive of marijuana legalization already know the issue will come before lawmakers in some form in 2020, it had been believed that next year – an election year for all state lawmakers – could be an even more politically dubious time to get the controversial drug legalization through the Legislature.

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