Pubdate: Wed, 17 Feb 2021 Source: Wall Street Journal (US) Copyright: 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Contact: http://www.wsj.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/487 Author: Jimmy Vielkind CUOMO TO AMEND PROPOSAL FOR MARIJUANA IN NEW YORK ALBANY, N.Y.-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he would amend his proposal to regulate and tax recreational marijuana in hopes that the drug could be legalized as part of the state budget due by April 1. The amended proposal would allow for delivery services and reduce the penalty for people who unlawfully sell marijuana to a person under the age of 21. It would also add specificity to a social-equity fund that the Democratic governor said would help revitalize communities that have been most harmed by the war on drugs. He said the amendments reflected conversations with lawmakers. Mr. Cuomo first expressed support for legalizing marijuana during his 2018 re-election campaign, but he and the Democrats who control the state Assembly and Senate haven't been able to agree on a framework for legalizing the drug. All parties said the chances for an agreement are higher this year, as the state searches for revenue to fill a projected $8.2 billion budget deficit and as New Jersey and Connecticut move toward legalizing cannabis. Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved referendums to allow adult-use cannabis last year. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use of the drug, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York lawmakers are considering a separate bill to legalize marijuana that sets a fixed percentage of revenue for social-equity purposes, rather than specific amounts included in Mr. Cuomo's plan. The governor said during a Monday news conference that he hoped the amendments would win more support for his plan. He added he wasn't optimistic that a law could be enacted outside of the state budget. "It's a controversial and a difficult vote. I get it," Mr. Cuomo said. "I believe if we don't have it done by the budget, we're not going to get it done." Aides to the governor didn't publicize the exact language of his proposed amendments, which must be filed with the Legislature by Thursday. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, declined to comment on the amendments, but has expressed support for legalizing pot. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers, said her conference was reviewing Mr. Cuomo's proposal, but said she believed legalizing marijuana was a matter of when and how, not if. Melissa Moore, New York state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for marijuana legislation, said Mr. Cuomo's amendments were a move in the right direction. She also said her organization prefers the legislative proposal. Opponents of legalizing marijuana, including the New York State PTA, which represents school parents, say they are concerned more students will start using the drug if its sale to people over 21 is authorized.