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New York Lawmakers Pushing to Get Marijuana Bill Debated in 2017

New York medical marijuana program
Photo by Getty Images

New York lawmakers are gunning hard, once again, this year in what appears to be a last ditch effort to get some of the state’s more remedial legislative forces to understand the importance of allowing a taxed and regulated cannabis market to exist inside the Empire State.

On Monday, Senator Liz Krueger and Representative Crystal Peoples-Stokes marched up to the steps of the Capitol Building in Albany to reintroduce the “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” a proposal begging to make weed fully legal across the state.

The bill would give adults 18 and older the freedom to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, while restricting home cultivation (up to six plants) and legal sales to adults 21 and older.

Although the bill has not managed to gain enough traction in recent years to come out of the halls of the legislative chambers with enough teeth to gnaw away at the chains of prohibitionary times, the two lawmakers felt compelled to force-feed the proposal to the state’s political animals one more time before the current session comes to a screeching halt.

“Marijuana prohibition is a failed and outdated policy that has done tremendous damage to too many of our communities,” Krueger said in a statement. “Allowing adult personal use, with appropriate regulation and taxation, will end the heavily racialized enforcement that disproportionately impacts African American and Latino New Yorkers, locking them out of jobs, housing, and education, and feeding the prison pipeline.”

But even if the General Assembly would put its seal of approval on the proposal, there is still a distinct possibility that the issue would be shot down by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

It was just a couple of months ago that Cuomo told reporters that he was not yet prepared to get onboard with the concept of a fully legal pot market. It seems the governor still believes that marijuana is a gateway drug, perhaps one that has contributed to the borderline apocalyptic opioid problem the state is presently experiencing.

“There’s two sides to the argument, but I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana,” Cuomo said. “If you choose to use marijuana recreationally, you know the law.”

But now that California has legalized the leaf for recreational purposes, with the latest numbers pointing to an estimated $5 billion marketplace once commercial stores open for business next year, there are some who believe that similar reforms in New York could be exactly what it takes to change the narrative at the federal level.

After all, it is often said, “As goes New York, so goes the nation.”

In fact, last year, Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said that New York has a significant influence on the way marijuana policy will eventually shake out all across the nation.

The latest statistics provided by a new campaign called Start SMART NY shows the state could easily see $3 billion per year in marijuana sales by simply eliminating the black market. New York City alone could generate well over $400 million.

Some cannabis advocates say they have lost faith in the ability of the state legislature to get anything accomplished when it comes to marijuana reform.

It is for this reason that a group called Restrict & Regulate is working to get the state’s voters to support a constitution convention in the upcoming election. If this happens, there is a slight chance that legal weed could be included in the state constitution in April 2019.

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