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Cuomo: Legalizing Marijuana Unlikely This Year

Cuomo does not believe there's enough support is in legislature

June 03, 2019 - 2:40 pm

Albany, NY (AP/WBEN) Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he doesn't believe it's feasible for lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana this year.

The Democrat told reporters Monday that he doesn't believe there is sufficient support to pass the measure in the state Senate.

Cuomo says that he backs the legalization of marijuana but that the issue remains controversial for many legislators. And he says recent failure of legalization efforts in New Jersey sapped some momentum in New York.

While there is much support from the public and lawmakers on legalization, there are some who believe it could be hazardous.

"Kids' brains are not fully formed until they're 23, 24, 25 years old, so now we're putting chemicals into their brains that aren't formed, so their growth is being stunted; I'm not talking their physical growth, I'm talking their emotional growth, their behavioral growth," said Jodie Altman, the campus director for Kids Escaping Drugs. "We have kids here that are 18, 19, 20, here because they're smoking marijuana who behave like a 10 and 12 year old because that's when they started using drugs."

Lawmakers insist they're not giving up on passing legalization before they adjourn June 19. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers, said lawmakers are working to find compromises.

Despite broad support for legalization, there are disagreements about the regulatory details and whether the bill should include provisions expunging past low-level pot convictions.

The recent failure of legalization legislation in neighboring New Jersey likely sapped some of the issue's momentum in New York, Cuomo said.

"It's moving in the right direction," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said last week when asked about negotiations on the bill.

Advocacy groups that have been working on legalization for years say they are frustrated by the lack of progress on the bill as the session's end nears. Kassandra Frederique, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said she holds Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, equally responsible.

"All three are stalling," she said.

Illinois is poised to become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana after lawmakers passed legislation last week. Two of New York's neighbors, Massachusetts and Vermont, have already taken the step.

The bill currently before lawmakers in New York would permit adults 21 and older to consume marijuana bought at state-regulated dispensaries. It would also allow users to grow a certain number of plants at home and permit local governments to opt out of hosting dispensaries if they choose.

The bill would also direct some of the tax revenue from legal pot to substance abuse treatment, public education and law enforcement, as well as job training and other services for communities hit disproportionately by the war on drugs.


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