The Empire State is inching closer to legalized marijuana. In an interview with Cheddar, New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D) said that there is now one bill on the table that is almost complete and is agreed upon by all legislative bodies in the state.
“The Assembly and the Senate have been working together for close to five years on a same-as bill that keeps morphing and growing,” said Krueger, who is the lead sponsor of the measure in the state Senate. Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), who spoke to Cheddar in February, is the lead sponsor of the bill in the state Assembly.
The bill, dubbed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act includes legalizing recreational adult-use of marijuana for those over 21 years of age. Marijuana Business Daily projects that the New York market would become the largest on the East Coast, generating $2.3 billion in annual sales by its fourth year. Revenue that, according to Krueger, will be primarily used to benefit the minority communities that were most hurt by the government's decades-long war on drugs.
Medical marijuana will also be significantly expanded. The state passed a program legalizing medical marijuana for only severe conditions in 2014, but the program has been criticized by cannabis supporters as too narrow and too expensive. Those who use CBD to self-medicate will be happy to find that the cannabidiol will also be included in the legalization bill, which Krueger dubbed “probably the fastest growing and newest section of cannabis.”
A big sticking point during past year's legalization efforts was ensuring that any new program was equitable. That concern has been addressed in this year's bill. According to Krueger, New York will be “setting up a seed-to-sale licensing system that will make sure we’re investing in the communities of color that were hardest hit by the failed war on drugs.” She continued, “We’ll ensure 50 percent equity of all licenses go to these communities and the money that is eventually collected in revenue will also be primarily focused on benefitting these communities.”
Past legalization efforts were initially included in the state’s budget, but were ultimately not successful. Supporters aim to avoid that issue this year by keeping the bill as a standalone piece of legislation to be voted on in the coming days. Krueger hoped to have it passed before the budget, which is due on April 1, but says it may have to wait unless there is a "slower" day to fit it in amid budget negotiations.
Krueger also said she thinks embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo should resign. Cuomo is currently at the center of a number of investigations for both his handling of nursing home COVID-19 deaths and allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
“Frankly it’s all too much and I don’t think it’s realistic that the governor can be focused on all the issues we need him focused on as the governor. I know that many of his senior staff have, what they call, lawyered up," said Krueger. "I’m not even sure if they’re allowed to talk to him. I don't know how the government functions [that way].”
And time is ticking, according to Krueger. “People of New York need things to get done.”