New York State

Has marijuana legalization fallen out of the state budget?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he'd "try like heck" to legalize recreational marijuana in the upcoming state budget, but it's starting to look doubtful that he's putting in the energy to push legalization forward.

Lawmakers have been vigilant about pursuing recreational marijuana legalization.

Lawmakers have been vigilant about pursuing recreational marijuana legalization. nhungboon/Shutterstock

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said more than a month ago that he would “try like heck” to legalize recreational marijuana in the upcoming state budget. But with a little over a week until the April 1 budget deadline, it appears that he might be giving up.

The governor said on March 19 that he was removing marijuana legalization – or at least its projected revenues – from his state budget proposal, surprising lawmakers and activists alike. While the governor said that legalization will likely have to wait until later in the spring, leading lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly say that they are not done pushing for legalization through ongoing budget negotiations.

"Budget negotiations are full of back and forth,” state Sen. Liz Krueger said in a statement. “There is no reason this cannot be a part of the final budget.”

Although Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins have raised doubts before that a deal on marijuana legalization could be reached by April 1, both chambers included legalization in their one-house budget resolutions earlier this month. “I’m disappointed that the governor appears to have indicated an unwillingness to keep this discussion in the budget,” Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes – a leading proponent of legalization in the Assembly – told City & State. “It was a surprise to me given that we are in conversations with his staff and I thought it was going pretty productively.”

Legislative leaders and the governor agree in principle that New York should join other states in legalizing recreational marijuana, but differ in how it should be done. Among the biggest outstanding issues are to what extent tax revenues should be invested in minority communities most affected by prohibition and what should be done with people already convicted of marijuana-related offenses. While Cuomo said in February that he would not accept “deferral” of the matter until after the budget, he blamed lawmakers this week for delaying legalization rather than himself. “I think it was clear early on that the legislative leaders signaled that it was going to be (done) outside budget," he said. "I think the speaker was quite clear of that, that it would be best to do it outside the budget, that it was complicated and it will take time.”

By Cuomo’s own admission, waiting on legalization has its own risks. If the measure is included in the budget, lawmakers can avoid going on record as either for or against it. “When it’s not done in the budget, then it is, in my opinion, harder to do as a stand-alone bill because it’s now just marijuana,” Cuomo said.

While a January Quinnipiac University poll found widespread support for legalization statewide, some counties have made moves to prevent the sale of marijuana in their jurisdictions, suggesting a political risk for upstate or Long Island lawmakers who might support it. Plus, waiting until after the budget could throw the proposal into a competition with other issues that will be debated this spring, such as single-payer health care.

The governor is not the only barrier to passage, according to Doug Greene, legislative director of the Empire State National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Some members of the Assembly appear to be at odds with leadership on the issue, he said, but his organization is continuing efforts to “focus like a laser beam” on the chamber through phone calls and emails to lawmakers.

However, it appears that the issue has become a “bargaining chip” in budget talks as far as the governor is concerned, Greene added. That does not mean though that it will fall out of the budget, according to Melissa Moore, deputy state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “I don’t think it’s actually out (of the budget)” she said. “It seems like the thing that happens in Albany when people say things externally that are not really the reality.”

In a March 20 appearance on “The Brian Lehrer Show,” Cuomo did say that “it would be great” to legalize marijuana as part of the budget. While it was one of many issues that he outlined as critical parts of his political agenda in the first 100 days of his term, Cuomo has not pursued it with his same trademark gusto that has characterized his push for congestion pricing, criminal justice reforms and making the local property tax cap permanent.

There is still time for Cuomo to deliver, Moore said, especially since marijuana legalization is “intersectional” with his other legislative priorities. It could help fund repairs to New York City subways, improve the lives of people harmed by drug laws, and add to the bottom lines of state and local governments. “Why not actually hold true,” she said, “and have the governor do good on his word and get this over the finish line?”

Correction: Empire State NORML Legislative Director Doug Greene's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.