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New Proposal Could Be New York’s Last Chance To Legalize Marijuana This Year

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A newly revised bill to legalize marijuana in New York is being circulated as lawmakers work to reach a deal before the end of the legislative session this week.

The 11th-hour push comes amid disputes over how tax revenue from cannabis sales should be allocated and other details of the plan that have raised questions about the bill’s prospects for passage. Several media sources have indicated that leadership of both the Senate and the Assembly are in agreement about the revised legislation, but it remains uncertain whether the proposal has the 32 Senate votes required for passage and whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is willing to sign it.

Insiders say that a vote on the new legalization bill may be scheduled for Friday—two days after the legislative session was initially set to end.

Besides the tax revenue debate, some lawmakers have also expressed concerns about whether language on jurisdictional approval of marijuana businesses would be opt in or opt out. A provision allowing home cultivation for personal use that appeared in earlier versions of the bill may be stripped from the new proposal, The Buffalo News reported.

“It’s very promising,” Sen. Liz Krueger (D), who has been the lead sponsor of legalization legislation, said on Tuesday. “Everybody has their things that they want, so I’m going to say it’s a moving target and we keep pushing.”

Rep. Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), the Assembly majority leader and the sponsor of that chamber’s version of the legalization bill, tweeted, “From the start of the legalization discussions, I’ve made it clear that community reinvestment is a top priority and more importantly, that funding for these communities need to be identified in statute.”

“By Sunday night, that did not happen. It is imperative that we do this right the first time,” she said. “If the two houses can finalize an agreement and the Leaders agree to stay until Friday, then I am hopeful. Otherwise, I will continue to fight for justice.”

Peoples-Stokes criticized Cuomo for not doing enough to help craft a final deal.

“The governor didn’t participate,” she told The Buffalo News. “I want to say he probably makes people think he was participating.”

She also described provisions directing revenue to communities harmed by the war on drugs as a “line in the sand.”

“If we can’t get to that, I’m not willing to open a market that will garner tons of people, multiple billions of dollars if we can’t have a commitment to invest in the communities that have been harmed,” she said.

As an added compromise, the newly drafted legislation would include more funding for law enforcement, members of which have been one of the most vocal opponents of legalization.

If all else fails, lawmakers filed a separate bill on Monday that would expand the state’s marijuana decriminalization policy and provide for the expungement of prior cannabis conviction records.

Cuomo, who said that legalization remains a top 10 priority for his administration this session, hasn’t revealed much in terms of how legislative negotiations are going, saying simply, “I don’t know.”

“Different people say different things on the number of members who are ready support it, so I don’t know,” he said. “That is still a question mark.”

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Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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