A bill seeking to legalize recreational cannabis sales in New York State has died after talks broke down, sponsor Sen. Liz Krueger has revealed.
Albany’s legislative session ends on Wednesday and Krueger and her colleagues had been scrambling to push through the bill. Yet forces within both houses of the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were at odds over where revenue from taxing marijuana sales would go and that killed it off for 2019.
Krueger introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in December. Its stated aim is to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana under state law in the same way it regulates the alcohol industry.
She has been a passionate advocate of cannabis reform, as she claims prohibition has been costly and counterproductive to New York, while producing racially discriminatory outcomes.
The proposed legislation sought to empower the State Liquor Authority to grant licenses for the production, transport and retail of cannabis to anyone aged 21 or over. It was expected to bring in $300 million a year for the state through revenue tax, chunks of which would be diverted to communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition, funding re-entry, substance abuse and job training programs in low-income, high-unemployment communities.
It had been dubbed the “zombie bill” in Albany, as nobody could ever fully kill it off, but Krueger admitted defeat today, for 2019 at least.
She said it is clear that MRTA is not going to pass in this session, but pledged to push for a rational adult-use marijuana policy in future. “This is only a delay, but that delay means countless lives will continue to be upended by unnecessary enforcement,” she added.
Krueger reiterated her belief that cannabis prohibition is an outdated and irrational policy and that its days are numbered, citing many other states that have legalized recreational cannabis use.
There are still decriminalization bills floating around the Capitol, while another seeks to expand the state’s medicinal marijuana industry. Draft laws focusing on regulations of the hemp industry are still hovering too, while another seeks to wipe out the arrest records of up to 600,000 New Yorkers – mostly black and Latino – charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana.
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