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The Big Apple is one giant step closer to legalizing marijuana for adult use.

Yesterday, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) told reporters that the State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) had overcome last week’s impasse regarding impaired driving. With that impediment removed, all signs point towards a bill passing in the next few days.

“I think we are really, really really close on (legalizing) marijuana, we have gotten past the impasse of the impaired driving,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We are looking to get language that will I think be satisfactory in the next day or so.”

What’s The Issue?

The issue at hand was whether driving under the influence of marijuana should be treated as a traffic infraction or criminal misdemeanor.

Law enforcement groups, including the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, raised concerns that classifying impaired driving as a traffic infraction would send the wrong message to the public, endangering residents and visitors.

Conversely, legislators have emphasized the importance of reducing marijuana incarcerations, as well as ending the police practice of conducting searches on the basis of marijuana odor alone.

The lack of effective roadside testing technology further complicates things since present-day testing methods can not accurately determine how recently a driver has consumed marijuana.

At The Negotiating Table 

Currently, how exactly lawmakers resolved the impasse remains unclear. However, Governor Cuomo has already conceded two key provisions in his legalization plan to the legislature: social equity funding and home-grow. 

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), co-sponsored by Stewart-Cousins and Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Liz Krueger (D), starkly contrasted the governor’s original marijuana bill by allowing New York residents to cultivate cannabis inside their own homes, as well as by setting aside a percentage of marijuana tax revenue to be reinvested in the minority communities that have been most affected by marijuana prohibition.

While the exact language in the bill remains hazy, Senator Krueger said in a radio interview that she is “extremely pleased with the agreement that we have come to.”

Is The Third Time The Charm For Governor Cuomo?

This will be the governor’s third attempt at passing marijuana reform. In 2019 and 2020, Cuomo endeavored to pass a legalization bill through his executive budget, though each time he was thwarted by his own party who criticized the gubernatorial office for prioritizing tax revenue above criminal justice reform. This year, however, the legislature has made it clear that negotiations will take place outside of the budget process. 

Regardless of their differences, both Cuomo and the legislature are optimistic that they will reach an agreement soon. The governor made his intention to succeed in legalizing marijuana this go-round by saying, “We’ve tried to do that for the past three years, we have to get it done this year.”

“Since I’ve never gotten this close to the deadline before, I’m feeling that there is impetus to get this done as quickly as possible,” Senator Krueger recently said. “ I am prepared to do everything in my power to close this out, get this bill to both floors, and get it signed by the governor.”

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