Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not believe legislation legalizing recreational marijuana in New York will pass before lawmakers adjourn for the year this month, he said June 3, 2019.
Cuomo supports legalization but said he doesn’t think there are enough votes in the state Senate to pass a measure. Lawmakers are scheduled to finish their session on June 19, 2019.
While there’s broad support for legalization among members of the Democratic-led state Legislature, lawmakers have so far failed to reach a consensus on the many details of taxing and regulating marijuana. Many lawmakers also want legalization to be accompanied by provisions expunging past low-level marijuana convictions.
“I think politically the Senate is not ready to do it,” Cuomo told reporters during a Capitol news conference. “It is a politically controversial issue, no doubt. … I don’t think it’s feasible at this point.”
Advocates for a New York marijuana cooperative press for lawmakers in the Capitol in Albany in March 2019 to pass a legalization bill. The effort stalled, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said June 3, 2019, that a legalization bill is all but unlikely for the remainder of the year. (Associated Press file photo/Hans Pennink)
Top lawmakers insist there’s still time to come to an agreement and note that the fate of the session’s biggest issue is often undecided until the final day of the session.
“It’s moving in the right direction,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in late May 2019 when asked about negotiations on the bill.
Advocacy groups that have been working on legalization for years say they are frustrated by the lack of progress on the bill as the session’s end nears. Kassandra Frederique, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), said she holds Democratic leaders Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie equally responsible.
“All three are stalling,” she said.
Illinois is poised to become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana after lawmakers passed legislation May 31, 2019. Two of New York’s neighbors, Massachusetts and Vermont, have already taken the step. Vermont doesn’t yet have retail sales despite legalization.
The bill currently before lawmakers in New York would permit adults 21 and older to consume marijuana bought at state-regulated dispensaries. It would also allow users to grow a certain number of plants at home and permit local governments to opt out of hosting dispensaries if they choose.
The bill would also direct some of the tax revenue from legal marijuana to substance-abuse treatment, public education, and law enforcement, as well as job training and other services for communities hit disproportionately hard by the war on drugs.
— David Klepper
Feature image: A man smokes marijuana during a party hosted by Spleef NYC in New York City in March 2019. The New York Legislature will adjourn for the year without producing anticipated marijuana legalization laws, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said June 3, 2019. (Associated Press file photo/Mary Altaffer)