New York Getting Closer To Finalizing Cannabis Legalization

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State legislators seem to be highly motivated to push marijuana legalization through.

Lawmakers in New York are apparently close to a deal to make the state the latest to legalize recreational marijuana.

Leaders in Albany said Monday that a final version of the bill is imminent, and that it could be brought to a video perhaps as soon as next week.

Speaking at an event that day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that he spent the previous weekend on the phone with Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

“We’re very close on marijuana,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo identified marijuana legalization as one of his policy priorities at the beginning of the year, but the push toward legal weed now comes at a time when he is embroiled in scandal. Facing several accusations of sexual misconduct, and drawing intense scrutiny for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo has hunkered down in recent days as a growing number of fellow Democrats call for him to step down. Analysts at BTIG said that Cuomo “is more motivated now to pass a highly popular piece of legislation that could have the added benefit of shifting public attention” away from the scandal, saying that the marijuana proposal could be brought to a vote ahead of New York’s April 1 budget deadline.

“Given the personal issues Governor Cuomo is facing, there had been concerns that cannabis reform would be delayed again, but we are encouraged to see all parties remain at the negotiating table with movement toward a resolution,” the analyst note said.

Other lawmakers in the New York assembly appear similarly bullish about the bill’s prospects.

“I think we’re trying to get it done before we pass the budget,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said on Monday, as quoted by WSKG.

Remaining Details and Public Opinion
According to Spectrum News, some of the last remaining details to iron out in the bill include “how many plants can be grown in a private home and how to determine impaired driving for someone who has used marijuana.”

 As the BTIG analysts noted, legalization is indeed popular in the Empire State. A poll from Siena College released on Monday found that 59 percent of registered voters in New York are in favor of legalizing marijuana, with just 33 percent opposed. The support is bipartisan, with 62 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans saying they favor legalizing recreational pot.

The same poll found that a majority of New York voters, 52 percent, would prefer to vote for someone else other than Cuomo in next year’s gubernatorial election.

Cuomo announced his plan to push for legalization in January, saying at the time that legal weed would “generate much-needed revenue, while allowing us to support those that have been most harmed by decades of failed cannabis prohibition.”

“Despite the many challenges New York has faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also created a number of opportunities to correct long standing wrongs and build New York back better than ever before,” Cuomo said in a statement at the time. “Not only will legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provide the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also allows us to directly support the individuals and communities that have been most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition.”

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