Marijuana Legalization Bill Is Dead In New York, Officials Say

NEW YORK — New York won’t become the next state to legalize recreational marijuana this year, state officials acknowledged Wednesday.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, a bill legislators had pushed to legalize and regulate the drug, “is not going to pass this session” despite months of negotiations among lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsors the bill.

“We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time,” Krueger said in a statement Wednesday morning, the final scheduled day of the legislative session in Albany.

Krueger’s pronouncement followed a reported last-minute push to convince skeptical state senators to support the bill, which would have legalized the use of marijuana for adults 21 and older as well as the drug’s production and distribution.

Holding the bill back was a disagreement between legislators and Cuomo over how to use tax revenues from the sale of pot, the Buffalo News reported. There was also debate over whether local governments should be able to opt in or out of the legal marijuana program, the governor said earlier this week.

Lawmakers may vote Wednesday on a bill to further decriminalize marijuana as a sort of consolation, according to news reports. That legislation would make it a violation rather than a misdemeanor to hold more than an ounce of the drug and establish a process for New Yorkers to have marijuana possession convictions expunged.

Cuomo said he would be willing to issue a message of necessity allowing lawmakers to pass the bill on Wednesday despite indicating earlier this week that he would only settle for decriminalization as a backup plan.

“I said I keep fighting and only ‘tend to give up on hour twenty when there’s four hours left in the session,'” Cuomo said in a statement. “We have now reached ‘hour twenty.'”

A spokesperson for the state Assembly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cuomo fully endorsed the legalization of marijuana in December after his administration released a report saying that it would do more good than harm. But legislation to legalize pot did not make it into April’s state budget despite support from many lawmakers and a wide range of advocacy groups.

A lack of support in the Senate reportedly hamstrung Krueger’s bill, which Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes sponsored in the other chamber. Some 30 of the 63 senators expressed support for the measure, leaving it just two votes short of the 32 needed to pass, the Democrat and Chronicle reported earlier this month.

Ten states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Illinois is poised to become the 11th — state lawmakers there reportedly passed a legalization bill last month that has support from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Krueger said she would continue to push for the legalization and regulation of pot that invests in “the communities most harmed by decades of failed prohibition policies.”

“This is not the end of the road, it is only a delay,” she said. “Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives up-ended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures before we inevitably legalize.”

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