New York Lawmakers Introduce a New Cannabis Legalization Bill

Since being re-elected last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has made legalizing recreational cannabis in the Empire State a central focus of his new mandate. However, his plan to have legalization included in NY's 2020 budget failed, and progress on legalization has stalled since then.

Now a group of state lawmakers are trying to push things forward by introducing their own cannabis legalization bill to the state Assembly and Senate. The bill's top sponsors, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) and Senator Liz Krueger (D), say their legislation is largely built off the plan previously proposed by Governor Cuomo earlier this year.

"We've attempted to take all of the negotiated agreements that took place during budget negotiations and expand our bill," Krueger told WAMC.

Under the new bill, a portion of money derived from cannabis taxes would be allocated to communities most affected by the War on Drugs. Another portion would go towards cannabis research and addictions services.

If passed, individuals with misdemeanor cannabis offenses would have their records sealed.

Still, there is some concern that the bill will not make it through the Senate, said Krueger. She said the bill will be voted on in the upper house until it is passed in the Assembly, where support seems to be higher. Krueger is also calling for the governor to support this legalization effort.

Cuomo, however, stated earlier this month that he may not be prepared to provide the measure with the support Krueger and Peoples-Stokes have requested.

"I support it," he said. "But if they are starting to suggest that I need to twist arms, then that's bad sign. Because arm twisting doesn't work. And it means they don't have the political support."

The introduction of New York's new legalization bill comes just days after a similar measure in neighboring New Jersey failed. At the beginning of the current legislative session, both of these East coast states seemed well positioned to move ahead with cannabis legalization, but as of yet neither have been able to make significant headway.

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