Published 12:41 p.m. ET March 11, 2019
Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
Orginally Posted to Democrat and Chronicle
ALBANY – Legalizing marijuana in New York, once hoped to be part of the state budget this month, will likely have to wait until later in the year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had pressed lawmakers to get a deal in the budget, said Monday it is increasingly unlikely that an agreement will be reached by the start of the fiscal year April 1.
“I’m no longer confident marijuana will be done in the budget,” Cuomo told reporters at the Capitol.
He added the sides remain far apart on any compromise with legislative leaders.
“I’ve had discussions with them on it. There is a wide divide on marijuana. I believe ultimately we can get there, and we must get there,” he said. “I don’t believe we get there in two weeks. And also that’s what the legislative leaders have said.”
Cuomo proposed an expansive plan to regulate and tax recreational marijuana in his budget plan in January, and legislative leaders said they support the legalization.
But as opponents rail against the proposal, Cuomo said it appears he and lawmakers won’t be able to work out the complexities of the measure as part of the budget.
The legislative session runs until mid-June.
“What happen is the philosophical dissolves to the practical,” Cuomo said.
“In other words, in concept, would it be fine? Yes. Now the PTAs start to call and say, ‘How can we make sure children aren’t going to get it and it’s not going to be sold near a school?’ And you have to make sure you don’t have a straw purchaser.”
So Cuomo said many issues still need to be worked out before marijuana is legalized in New York, despite having a Democrat-controlled state government that has largely supported it.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, have also cast doubt in recent weeks on whether the issue would be resolved this month.
“If it can be done in the budget, great. But if not, we want to make sure we do it right,” Heastie said last month.
The sides have myriad matters to address in the budget, such as closing a budget gap, funding schools, developing a congestion pricing plan for New York City transit, enacting ethics reform, reforming the criminal justice system and making the property-tax cap permanent.
Cuomo has said the tax cap and congestion pricing to fund upgrades to the Metropolitan Transportation System, as well as criminal-justice reforms, need to be included in the budget.
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