New Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in New York

The new plan would include public health benefits and provisions to address the consequences of the War on Drugs.
New Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in New York
John Gillespie/Flickr

Lawmakers in New York announced plans to introduce a new marijuana legalization bill in the state legislature, according to media reports. The new bill comes after an effort to include a cannabis legalization plan in the state budget failed to gain enough support earlier this year. Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan, an advocate for cannabis legalization, said that the new bill builds on the common ground achieved during talks for the unsuccessful budget plan.

“We’ve attempted to take all of the negotiated agreements that took place during budget negotiations and expand our bill,” said Krueger.

The bill’s sponsor in the New York State Assembly, Democratic Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, called for a comprehensive plan to legalize cannabis, regulate hemp, and improve New York’s medical marijuana program.

“I am working on amending the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act to incorporate many aspects of Governor Cuomo’s proposal,” Peoples-Stokes said, “including having one regulatory body overseeing medical marijuana, hemp extracts, and adult-use cannabis.”

Measure Aims for Social Equity

Peoples-Stokes also said that the core principles of the previous plan including “significant dedicated investment in communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition, equity in the industry, permitting individuals to grow cannabis for personal use, and addressing past criminal convictions,” had been preserved in the new bill. 

The majority leader also said that the new plan would include public health benefits and provisions to address the consequences of the War on Drugs.

“A certain percentage of it will go towards comminutes that have been negatively impacted by mass incarceration,” Peoples-Stokes said.

“And a certain percentage of it would go for research, drug prevention and treatment,” she added.  

The new plan also includes expansion to the state’s medical marijuana program by leaving it up to doctors and patients to decide when the therapeutic use of cannabis may be beneficial instead restricting access to those with a specified qualifying medical condition.

“It is my hope that this legislation will be approved by the Legislature, and there will not be a need to take up separate legislation that updates the medical marijuana program, and regulates hemp/CBD,” Peoples-Stokes said.

Will the Bill Succeed?

Krueger said that she does not believe that there are enough votes in the state Senate for the bill to succeed. She’s calling for the Assembly to pass the measure first to build support for the plan.

“And then I can try to make the case that people who might have been scared away when it dropped out of the budget should come back to vote for it,” Krueger said. 

Peoples-Stokes offered lukewarm support for the legislative path outlined by Krueger.

“It’s not something that we are adverse to,” Peoples-Stokes said. “We will look to do that this time.”

Krueger said that she is also looking for help from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, to help secure the votes needed in the Senate. But in a radio interview on May 10, the governor said that he is reluctant to attempt to persuade lawmakers who have reservations for the bill.

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

Krueger said that lawmakers will have “flunked the assignment” if they fail to pass a marijuana legalization bill this year.

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