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Details Could Delay Vote On Legal Adult Use Cannabis In New York

Cuomo initially wanted legalizing cannabis to be included in the state budget

In New York state government news, disagreements over the details of proposals to legalize recreational marijuana for adults could prevent a vote on the measure this year.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are gearing up for a major hearing on climate change as they prepare legislation designed to wean the state off fossil fuels.

Many supporters say they’re still optimistic lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo can work out a deal to legalize recreational marijuana this year. But time is beginning to run out.

Cuomo initially wanted a provision legalizing cannabis to be included in the state budget passed April 1. He withdrew it after it became obvious lawmakers couldn’t resolve thorny questions about the details of the legislation.

Now, those same devilish details could prevent a vote before lawmakers wrap up their session next month.

“The time for squabbling over details is over,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We need action from the Democratic majority. Marijuana legalization needs to pass during this legislative session. Period.”

One big question is whether legalization will be paired with a proposal to expunge the criminal records of people arrested in the past for pot possession. Many lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, say it’s essential such a measure be included as a way to address decades of racial and economic disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws.

Lawmakers in Albany point to the experience in New Jersey, where a vote on legislation to legalize marijuana and expunge old pot convictions was put off earlier this year.

Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, told Gothamist this week that passage of a legalization bill would require Cuomo to make the issue a priority in end-of-session negotiations with lawmakers.

Cuomo said Friday that he interprets such comments “as legislative code for ‘we don’t have the votes.'”

“That is obviously troublesome,” Cuomo told reporters at an unrelated event Friday. “I would urge the senators to pass it. I urge the Assembly to pass it.”

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