“Zombie” Cannabis Legalization Bill Is Still Alive

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Here we are: the last day of New York’s legislative session, and the last day for lawmakers to pass legalization. Sort of. Rumblings now are that lawmakers might need to stay until Friday to come to an agreement on cannabis this session.

Tuesday night, the legalization effort was alive in New York’s Senate. But the support in this chamber, which has been a difficulty since the effort to legalize-through-budget failed, still didn’t appear enough to pass an adult use bill.

“We are still trying to get the support for a bill that will allow for a legal adult use market as well as an expanded medical program, and a regulated hemp industry, coupled with criminal justice reforms and social equity,” state Sen. Diane Savino, who represents areas of Staten Island and Brooklyn, told Cannabis Wire. “The time is short, but I am optimistic that we can get there.”

It is worth noting that Savino’s optimism is a positive turn from how she recently described the negotiations as “very precarious.”

Susan Arbetter, news director for WCNY Syracuse, asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo yesterday about New York’s “zombie” legalization bill (is it dead, or isn’t it?). “You know, different people think different things on the number of members who are ready to support it. So, I don’t know. That is still a question,” Cuomo responded.

Arbetter asked about lawmakers who stood firm on equity provisions that locked in the percentage of cannabis-related tax revenue that would go toward communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of cannabis laws, and about a New York Times report highlighting that Cuomo “wanted looser language which would give the executive branch more control over revenue. Is that the case?”

Cuomo’s answer indicated that one of the most important areas of the legalization conversation remains unresolved: how could cannabis be taxed, and where should the money go?

“I support the concept that the communities that have paid the highest price socially and demographically and economically should now share in the revenue from the bill. What is the revenue, when is the revenue, how does that happen? That’s a question,” Cuomo said.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes has been one of those vocal lawmakers calling for specific equity provisions. “From the start of the legalization discussions, I’ve made it clear that community reinvestment is a top priority and more importantly, that funding for these communities need to be identified in statute,” Peoples-Stokes tweeted Tuesday.

“By Sunday night, that did not happen. It is imperative that we do this right the first time. If the two houses can finalize an agreement and the Leaders agree to stay until Friday, then I am hopeful. Otherwise, I will continue to fight for justice.”


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