Will New York legalize marijuana? Lawmakers to decide this week – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to reporters Monday, June 3, 2019, about whether he believes an agreement on legalizing marijuana can be reached before the legislative session ends June 19. Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY – If New York lawmakers are going to legalize marijuana, this is their final week of the year to do to.
The state Legislature is set to conclude its six-month legislative session on Wednesday, and so far, legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have shown no confidence that a deal will be reached before the sides leave the state Capitol for the year.
Cuomo said Monday one of the main hangups is the type of opt-out from marijuana sales that would be afforded to local governments. Some want counties to be able to opt out of sales, others want it to be an opt-in program for each municipality.
“If you say, basically, it’s an optional law in the state, every community would have to opt in. That I believe could pass, because it is not saying your community must do anything,” Cuomo told reporters in Manhattan.
“If you flip it and say, ‘This is the state law, and I am imposing it on you, and down the block from your house in Queens, there’s going to be a store.’ That’s a different proposal.”
Cuomo said he supports legalizing marijuana for adult use and included it as part of his state budget proposal in January.
But the measure fell out of the budget for the fiscal year that started April 1, and since then, leaders have been unable to reach consensus on bill to make the New York the 11th state in the nation to have legal pot sales.
On Monday, lawmakers introduced a separate piece of legislation that would lower criminal penalties for marijuana possession and vacate previous convictions, seemingly a back-up plan if legalization was not approved.
What’s the latest pot progress?
Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said June 17, 2019, that it’s too soon to say whether she would opt out the county from marijuana sales if marijuana is legalized in New York. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Advocates in Albany have pressed lawmakers to pass the bill before the session ends, saying the state should no longer criminalize marijuana and instead tax and regulate it so it no longer disproportionately leads to arrests of minorities in inner cities.
Supporters will be out in force in the halls of state Capitol this week.
“States across the country have passed comprehensive marijuana legalization to build safer, stronger communities and New York should as well,” the group Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade said a statement.
The effort picked up the backing of the state Farm Bureau in recent days. The group said being able to grow marijuana would be a boost to struggling farmers in New York.
“Given the current status of the farm economy in New York state, farmers recognize the potential opportunity the cultivation of cannabis could be for New York State’s agriculture industry,” the group wrote in the memo.
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Sen. Peter Harckham, D-South Salem, Westchester County, said during an interview June 4, 2019, with the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau that he would oppose the current bill to legalize marijuana in New York. Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
The hangup appears to be among Democrats who control the state Senate. They simply may not have the 32 votes needed in the 63-seat chamber to pass the bill.
A survey of the 39-member Democratic conference by the USA TODAY Network’s Albany Bureau earlier this month showed it may be two votes short. And that’s assuming the conference would pass the bill with the barest majority — something legislative leaders rarely like to do.
School groups, law enforcement and health-care organizations have largely come out in opposition to the bill, putting pressure on lawmakers to do the same.
“From a public safety and law enforcement perspective, I believe legalization of recreational marijuana will create more problems in our communities than it will solve,” Sen. Fred Akshar, R-Binghamton, a former police officer, said in a statement.
Thebiggest concern is in the New York City suburbs, where some senators on Long Island and the Hudson Valley have either been opposed to legalizing marijuana or are resistant to get on board.
“I’ve been consistent from the very beginning: This is a hard lift,” Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, the bill’s sponsor, said earlier this month.
Democrats who control the Assembly and Senate separately held closed-door conferences last week to discuss the issue, but neither one came out saying they were confident the bill would be voted on this week.
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Thorny issues undecided
Lawmakers point to the complexity of any law as making it difficult to find resolution in the final days of the legislative session as they try to vote on dozens of outstanding issues.
Cuomo put forth a 10-item agenda for them to approve, including stronger women’s rights and providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
So finalizing a deal on marijuana that would determine tax rates, who could grow it, who would get the revenue from sales and whether to expunge records of previous marijuana arrests may prove difficult to finalize.
Also, the sides are trying to figure out the details on how to allow local governments to opt out of sales in their communities.
Cuomo proposed letting each county as a whole to vote to opt out. Lawmakers recently updated their marijuana bill to let every municipality hold a referendum on whether to opt out of sales.
Cuomo said Monday the opt-out provision continues to vex negotiators because of concerns in some communities over whether they would want marijuana stores in their neighborhoods.
A survey by the USA TODAY Network’s Albany Bureau earlier this month found a majority of counties have yet to decide whether they would allow marijuana sales within their borders.
“Does New York state say: Yonkers must do this or Westchester must do this. Or do they give the locality the option and does the locality have the option to opt out or opt in terms of the market?” Cuomo explained, using the local communities as an example.
“That’s the main point of the conversation now.”
As Democrats try to determine whether they have enough votes to legalize marijuana, Republican senators appear unlikely to provide any votes: None of them have said they would vote for the bill.
“While I have the utmost respect for the Farm Bureau, I disagree with them on this issue,” Sen. James Seward, a central New York Republican, said in a statement.
“I am not supportive of legalizing recreational use of marijuana. “
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This article originally appeared here in https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2019/06/17/new-york-legalize-marijuana-lawmakers-decide-week/1474002001/