Pubdate: Wed, 17 Feb 2021
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Jimmy Vielkind


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.