New York Senate leaders announced on March 16, 2021, that they are nearing agreement with Governor Andrew Cuomo on a final cannabis legalization bill. As we reported in our January 11 Alert, Governor Cuomo proposed a legalization bill as part of his budget proposal the same week that Democratic Senator Liz Krueger introduced a separate cannabis legalization bill, the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), that was co-sponsored by 18 of her colleagues.
The governor and state legislators have been negotiating since then to agree on a final package to send to the Legislature for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said on March 16 that lawmakers “reached a little bit of an impasse,” but that she is “optimistic it will be resolved sooner rather than later” and that they are “extremely close” to a deal. The impasse right now is over marijuana use as it relates to impaired driving.
Governor Cuomo said on March 15 that they are “very close” to reaching a deal. “We’ve tried to do that for the past three years, we have to get it done this year.” This optimism was echoed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who said that a deal is imminent and that the governor “is moving closer” to the positions taken by proponents of the competing bill, the MRTA, which is favored by legalization advocates over the governor’s proposal. On March 16, Senator Krueger said of the negotiations, “We have gotten to an agreement on hundreds of issues, we will resolve this last sticking point.” Governor Cuomo appears to have backed down from his original position that legalization must pass through the budget process, which is due by April 1.
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