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New York Legal Marijuana Push ‘Effectively Over’ For 2020, Governor Says



New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) conceded on Saturday that it’s unlikely marijuana will be legalized in the state this year.

“Marijuana and the gig economy were two of the more complicated initiatives that we wanted to work through that we didn’t get a chance to do,” he said in response to a question about which policy issues he would’ve liked to tackle in the annual budget bill that passed this week.

“Is the session effectively over? It’s up to the legislature, but I think it’s fair to say it’s effectively over,” he added, noting that several state lawmakers have been infected with coronavirus.

In January, for the second year in a row, Cuomo included cannabis legalization in his budget proposal to lawmakers.

In 2019, despite support for the general concept among legislative leaders, the issue was dropped amid disagreements over specifics, including how tax revenue would be allocated.

This year, observers were optimistic about the prospects of picking up those discussions and coming to a deal. But the COVID-19 pandemic quickly consumed the legislature’s attention in recent weeks and though Cuomo repeatedly indicated he still wanted lawmakers to address the marijuana through the budget, it ultimately proved too complicated an issue to resolve in the spending bill that was due this week.

The governor has continually maintained that the budget is the best vehicle through which to get legalization accomplished, but advocates and lawmakers had held out hope that it could be addressed later in the year.

Sen. Liz Krueger (D), the lead sponsor of a standalone marijuana legalization bill, said last month that if legal marijuana didn’t end up being addressed in the budget “there is no reason it can’t get done right later.”

Now, with the governor declaring the legislative session “effectively over,” that seems less likely to happen.

That said, as Cuomo indicated, it is ultimately up to lawmakers to determine whether they will reconvene again this year to tackle outstanding issues such as legalizing cannabis.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

Photo elements courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Carlos Gracia.

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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 and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


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