State Watch

New York won’t legalize marijuana this year

A bill that would legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use is dead in the New York state legislature this year, dealing another blow to legalization advocates who had planned an ambitious campaign in states across the country.

The prime sponsor of the bill said Wednesday morning it had become obvious that legalization would not advance this year.

{mosads}“It is clear now that [the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act] is not going to pass this session,” state Sen. Liz Krueger (D) said in a statement. “This is not the end of the road, it is only a delay. Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives up-ended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures before we inevitably legalize.”

Legalizing recreational marijuana had been a top priority of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) this year, but an effort to include it in Cuomo’s budget failed. The stand-alone bill got bogged down in debates over whether to allow towns and cities to prevent the sale of marijuana in their communities.

“We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time,” Krueger said.

Anti-legalization advocates had mobilized law enforcement, medical professionals and the state PTA against the legislation, similar to coalitions that have delayed action on legalization in other states.

“The predatory pot industry wanted legislators to believe that this was simple,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “The industry told people it would rain money for a host of pet projects, that our young people wouldn’t be at risk and drugged driving concerns were overblown. Thankfully, New York’s parents, doctors, law enforcement, teachers and many lawmakers didn’t fall for the con.”

New York legislators are likely to turn their attention to a different measure, which would expunge arrest records of those convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana. That bill could impact as many as 600,000 state residents with marijuana convictions on their records.

“Legislative leaders deserve credit for their willingness to advance sensible decriminalization over full commercialization of dangerous THC products,” Sabet said.

The loss in New York is the latest blow for legalization advocates, who had hoped to make 2019 a banner year for marijuana politics. Legalization bills have died in New Jersey, Connecticut and New Mexico. In New Hampshire, the Democratic-controlled legislature stopped work on a legalization bill after Gov. Chris Sununu (R) made clear he would veto it.

Legalization advocates scored their biggest win of the year in Illinois, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has said he will sign a recreational marijuana bill passed earlier this month.

Illinois became the second state after Vermont to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes through the state legislature, and the first state to legalize retail sales, something that is not in the Vermont legislation. 

Once Illinois’s law takes effect, recreational marijuana will be legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Voters in nine of those states, plus Washington, D.C., legalized pot through ballot measures.

Tags legalization of marijuana Marijuana New York

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