NEW YORK STATE (PIX11/WROC) — New York is “extremely close” to legalizing recreational marijuana, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told NEWS10’s sister station in New York on Tuesday. On getting the bill passed through the Assembly, she said, “It is a matter of when, not if.”

After years of political negotiations and failed deals, New York’s Assembly, Senate and governor are now all working together on the imminent legalization of recreational marijuana. “We’re looking at trying to get it done before we pass the budget,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie explained. 

The current deal will be finalized once lawmakers come to an agreement on a how to officially determine if a person is driving while impaired from marijuana.

Stewart-Cousins also says legalizing marijuana will have a large impact on the criminal justice system. “It’s no secret at this point how desperately Black and brown communities have been by the disproportionate arrests and incarcerations people with marijuana so we know it will have a criminal justice aspect,” she said.

Lawmakers have already agreed to address criminal justice concerns in communities of color, “making sure that these communities have the opportunities to really benefit from the economies and the industry that will be created,” Stewart-Cousins said. 

Stewart-Cousins also says that communities will see an economic benefit to legalizing marijuana.

When smoking marijuana becomes legal for adults, Legal Aid Society Attorney Anne Oredeko believes the state should also automatically remove past marijuana convictions from a person’s criminal record. “If we don’t have automatic expungement, many people are going to walk around still having that scarlet letter on their backs,” she said.

A Siena College poll released this week showed 59% of New Yorkers support legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Some law enforcement groups and parent associations have voiced opposition to legalization. The New York State PTA says marijuana would have a negative impact on young people if they gain access. Meanwhile, the state sheriff’s association says legalization will make roads less safe and encourage drug use among teens.