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Cuomo Still Optimistic New York Can Legalize Cannabis by April 1

February 4, 2019
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that he remains confident the Legislature can vote to legalize adult-use cannabis as part of the state budget, which is due on April 1.

The optimistic comments came Friday, after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-the Bronx, questioned whether lawmakers would have enough time to resolve thorny questions surrounding legalization while also working their way through a $175 billion budget.

“We'll work very hard to get it done. If we can't do it right, then we'll do it later.”
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

While both the Democratic governor and Heastie support legalization, there’s not yet an agreement on the details, such as tax rates and rules about how the product should be sold and regulated.

Cuomo said that while getting a good bill passed is more important than the timing of the vote, he’s not giving up hope of adding New York to the list of states like California, Massachusetts and Colorado that have lifted penalties for using the drug.


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“We’ll work very hard to get it done,” Cuomo said on WCNY radio. “In this business, six weeks is a lot of time. If we can’t do it right, then we’ll do it later.”

Attaching complicated proposals to the state budget — even if they aren’t strictly an issue of state finances — is one way Cuomo has used to get leverage over the Legislature. Removing the issue from the budget could complicate the negotiations over legalization, and potentially delay passage.

One possible sticking point: Heastie wants legalization accompanied by legislation expunging the criminal convictions of low-level drug offenders as an attempt to respond to decades of racial and economic inequities during the war on drugs.

Heastie’s comments expressing doubts about a quick vote on Thursday angered legalization advocates who questioned why it should take so long when New York has examples of other states to look to.


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“With eight states now having enacted regulatory structures and launched consumer sales over the last five years, it’s certainly less of an unknown now,” the pro-legalization group NORML wrote in a tweet to Heastie.

Heastie responded to his critics with a plea for patience.

“I didn’t say we can’t,” he tweeted in an exchange with another advocate. “I just said I’m not optimistic. I want to get it right rather than beat a ‘time clock.'”

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  • Devon Wallace

    Progressivism unchecked can get out of hand. Though at some point being conservative transitions to simply being stubborn or willfully ignorant. Pull your head out of the sand GOP! Yes, cannabis can be harmful in some cases…so can anything, so what. This does not mean it should be illegal. It isn’t particularly harmful in most cases. This expensive, fraudulent prohibition makes it potentially very harmful in all cases. Aside from its legality, cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others…this matters in a just society.

    Do we really want a big nanny-state government micromanaging our lives? If it can be justified that cannabis should be illegal, any group willing can do the same for many, many currently legal things…some of which are held dear by the GOP. If the GOP refuses to accept that prohibition of popular things is bad policy, it will simply further empower the left. Like alcohol prohibition, cannabis prohibition causes more problems than it solves, if it solves any at all. This lends credence to constitutional conservatism. It was, after all, progressives that supported prohibition in the first place.

    • BA5578

      Devon- I agree completely about constitutional conservatism making the most sense. The fact that the Constitution doesn’t specifically address the cannabis plant, means it should be at the discretion of the citizens and states to deal with (according to the 10th Amendment). The “nanny” states have taken micro- managing of people’s lives to a whole new level.
      In the words of Gov. Cuomo, “If we can’t do it right, then we’ll do it later.” Unfortunately, they’re a bit more concerned about making sure you can kill your unborn child at ANY point. The cannabis issue can wait.

  • Jeff Avery

    cannabis is MEDICINE,,,,,recreational cannabis is PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE