ALBANY — It’s still a little hazy.
The fate of legislation legalizing marijuana in New York is still unclear as the clock ticks down toward Wednesday’s end of session deadline and lawmakers openly weighed other options.
Legislators are buzzing about a new measure that would decriminalize cannabis and expunge records for certain past marijuana criminal offenses as well as expand the existing medical marijuana program and aid the growing hemp industry. But the plan stops short of legalizing the sale of adult-use pot.
Several Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly told the Daily News they’d be more comfortable passing the scaled back bill, introduced on Sunday, and leaving legalization to a later date.
“It’s all of the good things without all of the drama,” one Democratic insider said.
Supporters say the proposal contains the elements that will have the biggest social impacts on communities adversely affected by decades of over-policing and archaic drug laws.
Even Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) expressed interest in the measure.
“In Albany, you just don’t know how things are going to end up,” Heastie said. “If we can’t come to an agreement on adult use, the very least we could do is make sure people who have suffered under these laws, their records are expunged and they can take the stain off of their lives and can get housing and jobs and things like that.”
The main marijuana bill that is still being considered by state lawmakers, which would allow marijuana to be legally grown, sold and used for recreational purposes, was recently tweaked to more closely mirror Gov. Cuomo’s own proposal after pot talks fell apart earlier this year. Marijuana momentum was lost after similar legalization efforts fizzled in New Jersey.
“We’re still trying to get there,” Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) said Tuesday. “We’re working down to the final minutes.”
An eleventh-hour push to re-spark the debate ahead of the end of session was bolstered by joint talks between the two chambers and the governor’s office in recent days, sources said over the weekend. But the chance of legalization appears to have gone up in smoke as the conversations fizzled.
Cuomo and lawmakers remain hung up on several details, including whether municipalities can opt-in or out, expungement versus the sealing of past pot arrest records and how tax revenue should be spent. It remains unclear how much support either bill has in the Senate.
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