Deal struck to legalize recreational marijuana in New York; vote possible next week

Local News

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) – A bill to legalize recreational marijuana in New York State could be written and printed as soon as Wednesday night or Thursday, with Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes hoping for a vote next week, the assemblywoman said.

Peoples-Stokes, who has long supported legalizing marijuana, said the Democratic Assembly, Democratic Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have a three-way agreement on the proposal.

The deal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday afternoon.

Once the bill is signed into law, Peoples-Stokes said, “It will take effect immediately that marijuana as a product will be a legal product.”

The Buffalo Democrat said it would allow people to have up to three ounces of marijuana. The legislation will also prescribe that the governor’s office set up the “Office of Cannabis Management”, which along with the regulation of recreational use of the drug, would also deal with the regulation of medical marijuana and hemp, which are both already legal products in New York State. The five-person board administering the office would consist of three people recommended by the governor, one by the Senate, and one by the Assembly.

Peoples-Stokes noted other states which have approved recreational marijuana generally take 18-24 months to put the regulatory pieces in place. But she believes it may not take New York that long.

“You can’t get the work done until you do that,” she said.

The legislation also calls for a “controlled study” to determine how much THC one would need in their system for a police officer to determined they are driving while impaired, the assemblywoman said.

“No one knows how to test for impaired driving. They may know how it looks,” she added. “Frankly the New York State troopers are really good at that. They know how to train other law enforcement departments in being able to see that. But there is no real firm test that they can use.”

Peoples-Stokes could not share details regarding how the drug would be taxed. But she laid out where some of that money would go.

“Percentages of it will be invested into the communities that have been harmed,” she said. “Percentages of it will be invested into education.”

“And percentages of it would be invested in substance abuse education for young people and substance abuse training,” Peoples-Stokes added.

Lawmakers approached the legalization of marijuana as something they wanted to do outside the budget process this year. Earlier in the day during a coronavirus briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo said getting the bill passed before the state budget is essential.

“This year, we have to get it done,” Cuomo said.

The budget is due on April 1st.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.

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