Lawmakers and business leaders discuss future of legal marijuana in NYS

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Governor Andrew Cuomo has now announced that marijuana legalization will not be included in the April 1st state budget. But that does not necessarily mean the bill is dead. Governor Cuomo has said he predicts lawmakers will likely agree to pass it by June.

On Thursday, assembly members met in Colonie to learn how legalizing marijuana could impact the Capital Region business community.

“We already know that we’ve got a very difficult business climate in the state of New York,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh. “We don’t need to make it any harder on employers.”

Lawmakers like Walsh listened to the concerns of Capital Region business leaders in Thursday’s meeting. Walsh says rushing to legalize marijuana any time soon could put a strain on the community.

“Let’s take our time. Let’s do it right, because it’s always harder to go in after and try to fix stuff,” said Walsh. “It’s better if we can come close to a final product out of the gate. So I don’t want dollar signs to be driving the decision making here and I really do feel that’s what’s going on.”

Many in the room Thursday, felt the same way and that the issue should be kept separate from any budget plan.

”When it comes to large public policy issues, those should be standalone bills that are truly vetted and not wrapped up in a catch-all budget deal,” said Tom O’Connor, VP Government Relations from the Chamber of Commerce.

Employers and business leaders mostly agreed that employee safety and health is at the forefront of the issue. Employees should be able to make sure employees would be able to safely and effectively perform their jobs. Many felt businesses would need to new impairment testing guidelines allowing employers to test for THC.

“Right now there does not seem to be a test available to test whether someone is impaired or not,” said Maureen Young, Labor and Employment Counsel for GE. “And we really need focus on impairment testing before we can go further down the line in decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.”

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