The Legislature is on the precipice of passing a measure legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana in the Empire State, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Tuesday.
Lawmakers are likely to reach a cannabis consensus and act on a stand-alone bill as soon they address lingering concerns about traffic stops and safety, Stewart-Cousins acknowledged.
“We are extremely close. We have reached a little bit of an impasse right now and it has to do with impaired driving,” the Yonkers Democrat said during a video news conference. “We’re trying to figure a way forward so there can be some understanding of safety.”
At issue is whether to continue to treat driving while impaired by marijuana as a misdemeanor or a traffic infraction.
Earlier in the day, Sandra Doorley, Monroe County District Attorney and president of the state’s district attorneys association, outlined some of the qualms coming from law enforcement.
“The classification of driving under the influence of cannabis as a traffic infraction would send the message to the driving public that driving while impaired is no big deal and will be treated the same as a speeding ticket,” Doorley said. “Further, driving while impaired by marijuana obviously endangers all of our residents and visitors.”
Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly dropped marijuana from their budget proposals this week, an indication that lawmakers are nearing a deal on long-stalled efforts to allow New Yorkers to legally spark up.
Past attempts to approve pot have repeatedly gone up in smoke due to discrepancies over revenue, local opt-ins and expungement of past pot arrests. While Gov. Cuomo has included legal marijuana in his own budget proposals the past two years, he and lawmakers have failed to see eye to eye on equity and the allocation of revenue.
Lawmakers have sought to spend a lion’s share of the tax revenue on minority communities where the state’s drug laws have been disproportionately enforced, while Cuomo has sought greater state control of the funds.