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New York Lawmakers Schedule Marijuana Legalization Hearing

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Several New York Assembly committees have scheduled the first of what will be four joint hearings this fall on the prospect of legalizing marijuana in the Empire State.

Held next month in New York City, the session “will give Assembly Members and all New Yorkers an opportunity to hear from witnesses and learn from the experience of other states that allow adult use,” says the official announcements from the Committees on Codes, Health, Governmental Operations and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

The official legislative hearing comes as the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is holding a series of separate listening sessions across the state to gather public input on cannabis legalization. Cuomo also created a formal working group to draft legalization legislation that lawmakers can consider in 2019.

The four Assembly committees first announced that they would hold a series of official legalization hearings in August, and the October 16 event in New York City is the first one to be scheduled.

“Forty-one years ago, New York decriminalized non-public possession of small amounts of marijuana, making such possession a non-criminal violation punishable only by a fine,” reads the hearing announcement issued on Thursday. “In recent years, New York and many other states have legalized the use of marijuana for various medical conditions. Despite decriminalization in New York, a disproportionately high number of Black, Hispanic and Latino people continue to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses – particularly possession in public view – which often results in a criminal record that can prevent gainful employment and full participation in society.”

Earlier this year, the governor directed state officials to conduct a study on legalization, the result of which was a report issued by the Health Department in July that determined the “positive effects” of legalization “outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

The state Democratic Party endorsed marijuana legalization in May, calling it “an important social justice issue.”

And this summer, officials in New York City enacted relaxed cannabis enforcement and prosecution policies.

New York Governor Announces Marijuana Legalization Listening Sessions

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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