A bill legalizing marijuana in New York picked up the support of the suburban Democratic lawmaker on Thursday who had not previously backed the legislation.
Westchester County Sen. Peter Harckham announced he would support the legislation alongside the bill's Senate sponsor, Manhattan Sen. Liz Krueger. Harckham pointed to changes he had sought with the measure, including spending for substance abuse programs as well as increased enforcement of DUI laws.
“The bottom line is this: I’m for the legalization of marijuana in the State of New York," Harckham said.
He continued, "But it must be legalization specifically with improvements that guarantee the safety and well-being of our residents in regard to added spending on community policing of DUI and comprehensive education and communication efforts that point to the risks of marijuana use; and 25 percent of revenue, and not a dollar less, going toward treatment and safety net programs, including Substance Use Disorder and community mental health programs.”
Krueger called Harckham's support critical for moving the bill forward.
"It means so much that he's here endorsing this bill; it is also huge news in my opinion that the chair of the substance abuse and alcohol committee is here saying that this is the right thing to do," she said.
Harckham's support for the bill is significant given the bill's failure to get over the finish line in 2019. Lawmakers, many from suburban and upstate communities, raised issues with traffic safety and other considerations.
The marijuana legalization push ultimately fizzled as the Legislature and Cuomo agreed to decriminalize possession and expunging records.
A Siena College poll this week showed the strongest level of support for marijuana legalization among New York voters since the question was asked. But suburban voters remain split over the issue.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again this year included the proposal in his budget plan.