Cannabis Out! New York Drops Legalization From Budget Bill

[Canniseur: Gov. Cuomo pledges to make cannabis legal this year, and hopefully in June 2019. However, I think he is mistaken if he thinks there won’t be any communities to pass on legal sales.]

It’s official: New York has cut its adult-use cannabis legalization measure from the state’s budget bill for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins April 1.

During an interview earlier this week with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was of two minds: He sought both to remain positive, claiming that legalization will pass by June, while also conceding that the bill may become more difficult to pass outside of the budget.

“When it’s not done in the budget, then it is, in my opinion, harder to do as a standalone bill because it’s now just marijuana with a capital ‘M,’” Cuomo said, echoing state Sen. Diane Savino’s remarks earlier this week that legislators who represent conservative parts of the state may not be able to afford to support an adult-use bill that’s not tucked inside a budget.

Opting Out: Not a Concern

When Lehrer asked Cuomo about the New York counties that have already announced preemptive plans to ban cannabis sales, the governor argued they won’t follow through (although California’s track record, for one, tells a different story).  

“I don’t think it’s determinative,” Cuomo said. “It does make a difference on the statewide revenues, and it will cost those municipalities, localities that opt out because then they would not get the local share of the revenues.”

“For us, [recreational] marijuana is a relatively new issue,” the governor pointed out, apparently in reference to the bumpy road the legislation has taken. “It really started with my proposal this year, but [legislators] have signaled that they need more time to talk about it,” he added, likely nodding to pushback that the bill doesn’t sufficiently address questions of diversity and equity.

Cuomo: ‘We’ll Get It Done This Year’

Despite these roadblocks, Cuomo insisted that he thinks the bill will pass by June, during the current legislative session. “I believe we’ll get it done this year,” he said.

“I said from Day One that the marijuana issue was going to be controversial,” Cuomo acknowledged. Although the path forward for legal cannabis in New York remains unclear, on this point the governor was indisputably correct.

Photo Credit: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shakes hands with a moderator as opponent Democratic New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon prepares before a gubernatorial debate in August, 2018. (Craig Ruttle/AP)

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