The latest version of a bill that would legalize marijuana in New York largely “mirrors” the details of a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the state budget earlier this year, said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
“What it essentially does is mirrors the governor’s proposed cannabis legislation that was in his budget,” she said. “It was made up not just the legalization of adult use, but it also enhanced the regulations for hemp. It was just marrying the legislation, we’re adding those.”
- New bill for legalized marijuana in New York State
- Details of bill similar to Cuomo’s vision laid out in state budget
- Anti-marijuana groups maintain the bill will exploit the most vulnerable
The proposal backed by Cuomo would create an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee commercial marijuana, medically based cannabis and hemp production.
Peoples-Stokes told reporters on Tuesday that Cuomo’s plan to have an umbrella entity oversee the product “made sense.”
“It’s essentially the same plant, it has the same properties,” she said. “To me it made sense to do that.”
The legalization push fell out of the budget talks earlier this year amid concerns from Democratic lawmakers over the public safety effect of the measure. Lawmakers are re-working the bill in a bid to gain more votes and potentially the governor’s version of the proposal.
Revenue from marijuana sales would be split in different ways under the new legislative bill: Communities effect by the war on drugs, law enforcement to enhance public safety as a result of legalization, and funding for drug research and prevention.
It’s not clear yet if the bill can gain sufficient support among Democrats who control both houses of the legislature in order for a vote to be held by the end of the legislative session in June.
“I believe we’re very close to the votes,” Peoples-Stokes said.
Smart Approaches To Marijuana, a group that has been vocally opposed to efforts legalizing cannabis in New York, criticized a re-written bill in the legislature, saying the measure doesn’t change their concerns about the drug. Kevin Sabet, the group’s CEO, said the new bill doesn’t address his structural problems with legalization.
“Writing new regulations won’t change the fact that the pot industry will target, exploit and victimize low-income and minority communities here as it has done in other states,” Sabet said. “As it has in every other ‘legalized’ state, Big Marijuana will largely benefit wealthy, white commercial investors backed by Wall Street, Big Tobacco and the alcohol industry. Believing any other scenario, is like believing in the tooth fairy.”
Sabet, a former drug policy advisor in President Obama’s administration, pointed to the coalition that’s assembled in opposition and has remained since the start of the year.
“Parents, medical professionals, members of law enforcement, clergy and addiction treatment specialists have overwhelmingly told legislators that commercial weed would be a disaster for our communities,” he said. “Tax revenue will not go to communities in need, but law enforcement, government oversight, social services and public health costs. As more people’s lives are gripped by dangerous, high-potency THC products pushed by the industry, our mental health crisis will also worsen.”