Albany punts on marijuana
Stephon Johnson | 6/20/2019, 10:48 a.m.
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said legalizing marijuana was a priority for him and for the state legislature. Apparently, priorities have changed.
Albany has decided to pass on marijuana legalization this session disappointing some elected officials, advocates and public defenders in the process. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was part of a package of bills known as The Safer NY Act that would have legalized and taxed marijuana. It denies the state a potential source of revenue.
“It’s clear now that MRTA is not going to pass this session,” said New York State Sen. Liz Krueger 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 we inevitably legalize.”
Cuomo negotiated over the weekend with the leaders of both state legislatures. However, talks reportedly broke down on Sunday and they weren’t able to come to an agreement on what weed legalization in New York would look like.å
Kassandra Frederique, of the Drug Policy Alliance, said that the state legislature needed to do right by the people as soon as possible.
“The time for action is now,” said Frederique. “There is broad support and legislative momentum for equitable and responsible marijuana regulation. We cannot allow politics to distract from meaningful reform that addresses existing social injustices, promotes equity in the industry, and reinvests in communities most impacted by criminalization. We call on Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie to pass marijuana justice and legalåization by the end of this session.”
Elected officials and advocates have tried to get the ball rolling on legalization for a while. Last week, a coalition of dozens of organizations from across the state descended on the state capital and called for Cuomo to pass the Safer NY Act package. Coalition members were joined by New York State Senators Jamaal Bailey, Julia Salazar and Brad Hoylman and New York State Assembly Members Nick Perry, Danny O’Donnell, Walter Mosley, Harvey Epstein and Dan Quart.
The Safer NY Act package included a bill strengthening and expanding the special prosecutor executive order, the PoliceSTAT Act (which requires statewide reporting on policing of minor offenses and deaths in police custody), the banning of custodial arrests for non-criminal violations and the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which legalizes marijuana under a marijuana justice framework.
“Our law enforcement officials are tasked with a difficult job in ensuring the safety for all New Yorkers,” stated Bailey. “Unfortunately, due to a lack of transparency, there continues to be a divide between members of the community and law enforcement, resulting in an often tenuous relationship. We need to strengthen and improve our community and police relations in New York State; this is why I am proud to sponsor a set of bills for the Safer NY Act. The people must have trust in any system they take part in, and these bills place us closer to having true transparency and accountability in our state.”