ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC/WIVB)— The push to legalize marijuana in the Empire State is taking another step forward. With just a week left before the state budget deadline, negotiations that could lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York State are going well, according to Assemblyman Harry Bronson, a Democrat from Rochester.
There has been talk about making legalization a standalone bill that exists outside the budget, which is due on April 1, but Bronson says that likely won’t happen. Bronson says the parties involved are showing flexibility on some key sticking points between the legislature’s plan and the governor’s.
For example, lawmakers have been trying to come to an agreement about how to punish people who drive under the influence of the drug. At issue, a desire to ensure safety on the roads. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says that obstacle has now been overcome.
“I think we are really, really close on marijuana,” she said. “We have gotten past the impasse of the impaired driving. And we are looking to get the language that I think will be satisfactory in the next day or so.”
The problem as reported by law enforcement agencies across the state is that, unlike with drunk driving, there is no reliable technology to evaluate someone’s cognitive ability, motor functions, or quantifiable level of marijuana intoxication.
Bronson acknowledges the science is not there yet, but says most at the negotiating table are beginning to agree that this kind of dangerous driving is going to happen regardless of legalization.
“We’re talking about some potential pilots or approaches to deal with, how do you enforce driving under the influence? And I’m hopeful that we can come up with a negotiated idea of that issue, recognizing that it’s going to have be based on science, and we need more studies and more research done in that area,” Bronson said.
Although Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, said Tuesday that this major obstacle has largely been removed, she did not get much into specifics. The Majority Leader said the state may provide funding to train law enforcement officers how to detect when a driver is impaired by marijuana.
“This year we have to get it done,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on the subject during a Wednesday news conference. “We are close, but we’ve been close before,” he said. “This is about getting it over the goal line.”
Bronson says Cuomo’s team has also shown a willingness to spend more of the tax revenue generated by weed sales on programs designed to support low-income and minority communities. Cuomo’s plan would have allowed for a sizable portion of the tax revenue to help plug a multi-billion dollar fiscal gap, but Bronson said federal help has eased that need.
“The stimulus dollars that are coming,” Bronson said. “That is helping us, so there’s not the drastic cuts and things of that nature.”
Bronson also said it’s likely people will be allowed to grow marijuana plants at home in the final bill.