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Top New York Republican Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Will Happen In 2021

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The top Republican in the New York Assembly says he thinks the state will legalize marijuana in the new year.

“There’s still back and forth, but I suspect this year this will actually get done,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R) told WWNY-TV on Wednesday, referring to the upcoming 2021 session.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has twice included proposals to legalize cannabis for adult use in his annual budget requests, but negotiations between his office and the legislature have failed to produce a passable bill to date.

Barclay said he “thought it was going to get done” in 2020, though that didn’t happen. “I think it just got pushed off because of COVID.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said last month that she also anticipates that the reform will advance next year, though she noted that lawmakers will still have to decide on how tax revenue from marijuana sales is distributed.

“The conversation has always been, what happens to the revenues?” she said. “How do we include disparately impacted communities in the economy of this industry? And how do we make sure that resources to this disparately impacted communities are gotten in those communities?”

Cuomo also said last month that the “pressure will be on” to legalize cannabis in the state and lawmakers will approve it “this year” to offset economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic.

“You have such a [budget] gap now,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an easier conversation.”

A top aide also confirmed in October that the administration planned to give legalization another try in 2021, and the governor said in a separate recent interview that he felt the reform would be accomplished “soon.”

Democrats in the Senate will have more leverage to decide on the details of a legal cannabis program when the session starts, as they secured a supermajority during last month’s election. If Cuomo were to veto any bill, they could potentially have enough votes to override him.

Should legalization pass, it would enjoy the support of a strong majority of New York voters. According to a poll released last month, residents favor the policy change by a nearly two-to-one ratio.

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Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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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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