Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the pressure is on New York state lawmakers to legalize marijuana after voters in neighboring New Jersey approved a referendum this week that lets adults use the drug recreationally.
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Adult-use marijuana is already legal in Vermont and Massachusetts, which both border New York. But New Jersey is connected to New York City by mass-transit systems that make cross-border traffic likely. And during a time when state budgets are under stress from the coronavirus pandemic, revenue from marijuana sales looks more attractive, advocates say.
“I think this year it is ripe because the state is going to be desperate for funding,” Mr. Cuomo said Thursday on a public radio station. “I think it’s going to be an easier conversation.”
The Democratic governor said he would advance a framework, for the third year in a row, for regulating and taxing marijuana as part of his annual state budget proposal in January. Despite the support of Mr. Cuomo and the Democratic leaders of the state Assembly and Senate, neither legislative house has taken a vote on legalizing marijuana, and it has been dropped from budget bills in the last two years.
Despite broad agreement on legalization, there are still disputes between the governor and legislators over who will control any new cannabis regulator and how any revenue will be distributed.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat from Buffalo who sponsors a marijuana legalization bill, said she still believes that any legalization should set aside “a percentage of the resources for communities that are most damaged from the war on drugs.”
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