New York Lawmaker Pronounces Marijuana Legalization Bill Dead

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act may not be passed this session, but the fight is far from over.
New York Lawmaker Pronounces Marijuana Legalization Bill Dead
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New York’s bid to legalize the adult use of cannabis is dead for the current legislative session, according to the bill’s primary sponsor. In a statement released Wednesday morning, Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger said that efforts to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) had fallen short.

“It is now clear that MRTA is not going to pass this session,” Krueger said in a tweet. “This is not the end of the road, it is only a delay. Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives up-ended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures before we inevitably legalize.”

Negotiations Fail

If successful, MRTA would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 and older and established a system to regulate and tax marijuana sales. But negotiations among lawmakers failed to reach agreements on issues including how cannabis taxes would be used by the state, the expungement of convictions for past marijuana offenses, and the power of local governments to prohibit commercial cannabis activity in their jurisdictions.

“Through months of negotiation and conversation with the governor’s office and my legislative colleagues, we made great strides to improve our bill and bring more people on board,” Krueger said. “We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed cannabis legalization in December after a government study determined that the benefits would outweigh the harm. He then attempted to include the issue in the state budget bill in April but that effort failed.

The governor has said that he believes that tax revenues raised through commercial cannabis sales should be directed to the state’s general fund. But many legislators want marijuana taxes to be used for social equity programs that address the harm caused by the War on Drugs and provide support for members of minority communities to participate in the cannabis industry.

Decriminalization Bill Considered Instead

With the death of MRTA, lawmakers in Albany are scrambling to pass narrower substitute cannabis legislation before the end of the legislative session on Wednesday. One bill would reduce the possession of more than one ounce of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a violation and allow for the expungement of some marijuana convictions.

But Cuomo told local media on Monday that he would like to see the different aspects of cannabis legalization passed together.

“I don’t think we should do one component now and then come back and do another component,” Cuomo said.

Krueger said that the fight will go on.

“I will continue to push for a tax-and-regulate adult-use program with all the right safeguards in place, one that centers on restorative justice and reinvestment in the communities most harmed by decades of failed prohibition policies,” she said.

“We will build on the success of other states who have chosen to legalize, including many of our neighbors,” she added. “I have no doubt that prohibition is an outdated and irrational policy, and its days are numbered.”

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