Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes New York will still legalize recreational marijuana this year, though others aren’t so sure.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the coronavirus outbreak has not stopped his intention to legalize recreational marijuana in New York. Because the government doesn’t know how the coronavirus will affect their ability to convene and pass legislation, Cuomo talked of an “accelerated” budget process in the coming days to push through bills.
“I want to see as much as we can get done,” Cuomo said during a press conference this week. ”I want to see as much as we can get done. Only caveat, I want to do things right.”
Legislators will discuss different policy issues remotely and via teleconferencing before traveling to the Capitol to vote. Two Assembly members have tested positive for the coronavirus and currently recovering. New York has discussed legalizing adult-use marijuana through the budget since last year’s proposal, and lawmakers’ positions on this issue and where compromise might be necessary should be well known.
This is a highly unusual legislative process, which could tip the scales either way for marijuana legalization. One insider told The New York Daily News that Cuomo, who has vowed to pass cannabis reform for the past couple years, could hold more power because many lawmakers would rather stay home than travel to Albany. Lobbyists and advocates have also been barred from the state Capitol due to safety concerns, lessening their potential impact.
"Yes" Cuomo says he will be pushing for amending bail reform and legalizing marijuana in the "accelerated" budget process that could have lawmakers and governor making a deal by end of upcoming week "We're not talking about a bare-bones budget"
— Zach Williams (@ZachReports) March 14, 2020
However, the urgency of the coronavirus could place marijuana legalization on the back burner once again in New York. Opposition remains about how taxes raised by marijuana revenue should be split and how much marijuana residents can legally possess.
In addition, focus could shift to reducing the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit, which legislators predict could rise as New York provides health care in response to the coronavirus. Senate Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris told North Country Public Radio all of this could delay voting on adult-use marijuana.
“We’re trying to be incredibly effective this week, to only come in as necessary,” Gianaris said. “But in that short time do as much as we can to move the state forward.”
Still, Cuomo has placed significant political capital on legalizing marijuana this year through the budget. The governor had initially proposed states in the Northeast regional collaborate on passing recreational marijuana laws this years. That hasn’t happened, but Cuomo says those initial conversations have helped states coordinate their response to the coronavirus.
“Luckily, we have set a template where our regional states work together,” Cuomo said. “Many of you came to our regional meeting on marijuana laws. And I have a good relationship that I’ve developed with the surrounding governors. So we have actually deployed that here [in our coronavirus response.]”