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New York Lawmakers May Vote on Marijuana Legalization Wednesday

After meeting with Senate and Assembly lawmakers over the weekend, NY Gov. Cuomo could fast-track a vote on marijuana legalization this week.

Adam Drury

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New York Lawmakers May Vote on Marijuana Legalization Wednesday
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New York’s current legislative session ends on Wednesday, June 19, and it’s the last chance lawmakers will have to vote on marijuana legalization. Over the weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held talks with Senate and Assembly members to discuss possible action on a legalization proposal. Lawmakers and the governor failed to reach an agreement on Sunday, but it’s possible a deal could materialize on Monday. If it does, Gov. Cuomo will have to initiate a special procedure to rush the bill to a vote by the Wednesday deadline. Marijuana legalization advocates are currently demonstrating in front of the capitol in Albany to push Gov. Cuomo and New York lawmakers to take advantage of the last-second opportunity.

Gov. Cuomo Could Rush Vote on Legal Marijuana

A bill to legalize marijuana in New York that was pronounced dead earlier this year has suddenly surged back to life. At first, it looked like the proposal didn’t have enough votes to pass in the Senate. Lawmakers were unable to come to a compromise on taxes and other regulations, and Gov. Cuomo told reporters in June that it wouldn’t be feasible to push for the bill’s passage this session.

But some of the bill’s major backers wouldn’t admit defeat. Instead, they vowed to push on toward compromise. With the June 19 deadline looming, Gov. Cuomo held weekend meetings Saturday and Sunday with state lawmakers. Discussions reportedly centered around two key sticking points. One, whether to give municipalities the authority to opt out of the legal industry, and two, how to spend the revenue generated from taxes and fees.

If lawmakers and the governor secure a deal Monday, they’ll have until Wednesday to vote on a legalization bill. But the last-minute approach would require Gov. Cuomo to bypass public review of the legalization proposal. New York’s constitution typically requires that a new bill have three days of public review before the Legislature can vote on it. But the governor can order a message of necessity and waive the requirement. That would allow lawmakers to rush the bill to the floor for a vote before the session adjourns. And if lawmakers approve a bill, Gov. Cuomo has vowed to sign it.

Advocates Rally with Time Running Out on Legalization Vote

The disagreement over taxes remains one of the main concerns for lawmakers who support legalization as a social justice issue. Gov. Cuomo has pushed to direct marijuana tax and fee revenue into the state’s General Fund. But many lawmakers say marijuana revenue should go toward communities most impacted by decades of marijuana criminalization.

Progressive lawmakers say marijuana revenue should help fund job training, education, youth development programs and re-entry services for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses. Recent revisions to the bill also include provisions to clear more than 300,000 criminal convictions. Over the past 20 years, New York police have made more than 800,000 arrests for low-level marijuana possession offenses.

A majority of New Yorkers support legalizing marijuana for adult use. According to one recent survey, as many as 55 percent of New York voters back legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana. Legalization advocates have been rallying outside the governor’s office since Sunday. They’re demanding Albany take action in the eleventh hour to pass a bill that’s been in the Legislature since 2013.

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