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Recreational marijuana legalization bill likely dead in Albany

Posted: 9:21 AM, Jun 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-19 14:14:45-04

New York lawmakers were unable to negotiate a recreational marijuana deal in order to bring a bill to a vote before the end of the legislative session in Albany Wednesday.

Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and the lead sponsor of the main legalization bill in her chamber, confirmed that her legislation would not pass this year.

“Through months of negotiation and conversation … we made great strides,” she said in a statement. “We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time.”

However, there is still possibility for an expanded medical marijuana bill to come to a vote, sources in Albany say.

Current medical marijuana laws in New York only allow for extracts that can be vaped or swallowed, but lawmakers are considering allowing the legalization of the plant itself for smoking, sources say.

Those in favor of legalizing buds from the cannabis plant say it is cheaper for patients than derivatives such as ingestible capsules.

Monthly bills for medical use can easily reach $500 or more. The bill as proposed would allow doctors to decide who has access to the drug and increase the number of dispensaries across the state.

New York has grown its medical marijuana business at a far slower pace than other states. Currently, about 100,000 patients are certified state wide. In contrast, Florida has enrolled triple the number in half the time.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Richard Gottfired and Senator Diane Savino.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who proposed his own legalization legislation back in January, said he would support further decriminalization.

Despite broad support for legalization and polls showing its statewide popularity, lawmakers couldn’t agree on the many details of legalization, such as how tax revenue should be spent, whether past pot convictions should be expunged, and whether local communities could opt out of hosting dispensaries or instead would have to opt in.

For supporters who had hoped the nation’s fourth-most populous state would soon join the growing list of states where recreational pot is legal, the failure of the bill was a significant disappointment. They’ll now turn their attention toward next year, an election year, in which legalization may be an even tougher political challenge.

Cuomo included his legalization proposal in his state budget recommendation but pulled the measure after lawmakers couldn’t reach consensus.

He warned at the time that the decision to consider marijuana legalization on its own would make it harder to pass. The effort lost further momentum when lawmakers in next-door New Jersey failed to pass their own legalization efforts.

Associated Press contributed to this report.