A majority of New Yorkers favor legalization, but that opposition from the medical community and law enforcement, among others, remains.
I am not, in general, a betting man. If so, I would have lost some hard-earned dough last year when I predicted that New York will legalize the adult use of cannabis in the legislative session during the first half of 2019.
There are a number of reasons the bill was not passed, but that analysis is for another day. Since that experience, one hopes that the Governor and his Democrat-controlled legislature would have learned from the experience as they try to legalize again this year. Is anything different?
Well, yes and no. What is the same is the strong view of some of Cuomo’s Democrat colleagues that taxes raised through the sale of legal cannabis be directed towards poorer neighborhoods that traditionally were disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. Cuomo doesn’t necessarily disagree but would rather have a broader “cannabis tax fund” that the state can later decide how to divide up.
In addition, legislators would like to ensure that possession of up to three ounces of marijuana would not yield criminal penalties. Cuomo wants to limit that to one ounce. In a bit of a give as well, Cuomo agreed that the very powerful cannabis czar he proposed last year would be checked and overseen by a five-member board. He would like, however, for that board to include only members appointed by the Governor.
What also has not changed is that a majority of New Yorkers favor legalization, but that opposition from the medical community and law enforcement, among others, remains. Real issues about impaired driving, for example, should be addressed in a final bill. Press reports are indicating that these various challenges and differences are creating uncertainty as to the ultimate fate of the bill.
Will the differences be rectified before the budget must be completed on March 31? I am no longer in the predicting game. What I do know: Gov. Cuomo this year has put a lot of political capital on the line for this. He gathered the Governors of multiple neighboring states to seek to coordinate efforts on legalization and vowed to get this done in his recent State of the State message. Former President Ronald Reagan once famously said, “[I]f I can get 70 or 80 percent of what it is I’m trying to get, yes I’ll take that and then continue to try to get the rest in the future. And maybe it’s easier to get it as they see that this works.” Nuff said.
This article originally appeared on the David Feldman Blog.