A bill that would legalize marijuana in New York was amended on Friday to include aspects of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal earlier this year as lawmakers make an end-of-session push for the measure.
The amended bill includes the creation of an Office of Cannabis Management, a proposal first made by the governor in his budget plan. The new agency would be tasked with regulating retail and medical cannabis as well as hemp in New York.
But lawmakers also added language that would expunge the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses. The policy has been backed by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, but Cuomo has instead proposed sealing records.
The Drug Policy Alliance in a statement Friday evening said the revised measure is “geared toward improving public health, reducing criminalization stemming from use and possession, and limiting youth access.”
It’s not clear, however, if the changes are enough to move the issue forward between now and the end of legislative session, due to conclude on June 19.
Suburban and upstate Democrats have raised concerns over the public safety aspects of legalization, echoing the opposition of some law enforcement officials.
Meanwhile, multiple counties, including both on Long Island, have preemptively stated they would opt out of allowing the marijuana industry within their borders.
There is also the commercialization issue: Some lawmakers do not want the industry dominated by large companies.
Cuomo had initially sought to use some of the sales tax generated by marijuana sales in New York City to bolster revenue for mass transit infrastructure upgrades in the metropolitan area. The proposal was shelved, however, during the state budget negotiations and an agreement was never reached.
Cuomo in recent weeks has also been skeptical lawmakers have the votes to move the legalization measure forward.