BINGHAMTON, NY – New York legislators have apparently come to an agreement to legalize marijuana, establishing what will likely be one of the largest cannabis markets in the country, but the legislation hasn’t officially been put to paper yet.
Several weeks ago, legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all Democrats, signaled they were in serious talks on passing marijuana legislation in New York, including legalization of recreational marijuana, before the end of March. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins said negotiations were at a small impasse over specific provisions surrounding impaired driving.
“I think we are really really really close on marijuana,” Stewart Cousins said a day before her chamber’s Democrats conferenced on the bill.
Now various members, including the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Liz Kreuger, acknowledged an agreement has been reached. But in Albany, a deal is never really reached until the ink has seen sunlight.
I think we are really really really close on marijuanaStewart Cousins
Still, provisions reported to be included in the newly agreed-to legislation are making pro-marijuana and social justice advocates generally satisfied, even as they were previously worried the embattled governor’s involvement in negotiations could upend the legislature’s existing bill.
“As a consumer advocacy organization, NORML is thrilled to hear the negotiated bill reflects marijuana justice and the interests of the cannabis consumers,” Troy Smit, Deputy Director of Empire State NORML, said in a press release. “For far too long, the lives of New Yorkers in low income and communities of color have been ruined by our draconian enforcement of harmful prohibitionist policies. We hope this bill is a step towards a framework that implements marijuana justice and respects the cannabis consumers’ freedom to use a harmless plant.”
Other groups are less satisfied. This includes the New York State County Executive Association, which released a statement Thursday ripping the reportedly lower amount of sales tax revenue counties will receive from cannabis under the proposal.
“This compromise is significantly less than the 3% most counties currently collect for alcohol sales to provide life-saving public health education and roadside safety, and will not cover the new costs that will result from cannabis legalization,” NYSCEA President Mark Molinaro, a former and potentially future gubernatorial candidate, wrote in a release Thursday.
Assuming the bill text drops Thursday or Friday, the legislature could take votes on the plan as early as next week. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie previously said he expected it to be done before the budget, which needs to be approved by Thursday to prevent a shutdown of state government.