Cuomo: Pot legalization dropped from New York state budget

Cuomo: Pot legalization dropped from New York state budget
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Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that a bill legalizing marijuana — and the revenue anticipated from such a proposal — would not be included in the state’s upcoming budget, predicting that the state Legislature would come to an agreement on pot by June.

The move comes as several 2020 Democrats — including Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker — have voiced support for nationally legalizing marijuana. Recreational marijuana use is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and 34 states have voted to allow medical marijuana use.

“For us, marijuana is a relatively new issue,” Cuomo told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Wednesday. “It really started with my proposal this year but they have signaled that they need more time to talk about it. Therefore I didn’t want to count the revenue for marijuana in this budget.”

“If we could get it done by the budget, that would be great,” he added. “But there’s a whole legislative session after the budget and my take is it will be done during the legislative session post budget and therefore I took the revenue out of the budget.”

When asked whether some counties threatening to opt out of the legislation could slow its progress, Cuomo said they would not, pointing out that they would then lose their share of the state revenues from marijuana sales.

“I don’t think it’s determinative,” he said. “It does make a difference on the statewide revenues and it will cost those municipalities, localities that opt out because then they would not get the local share of the revenues. But it’s not helpful politically to the passage.”

Speaking in Albany Tuesday, Cuomo said that he hoped the state Legislature would pass a legalization bill by this summer.

“It was clear early on that the legislative leaders signaled that it was going to be done outside the budget,” Cuomo said. “Speaker (of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie) was quite clear of that, that he thought it was better to do it outside the budget and that it was complicated and that it would take time. But after the budget I’m hopeful in the legislative session it passes post-budget, before June.”

But the governor did acknowledge Tuesday that the bill would be harder to pass outside the budget and could pose a future challenge.

“When it’s not done in the budget, then it is, in my opinion, harder to do as a standalone bill because its now just marijuana with a capital M,” Cuomo said, adding, “I said from day one that the marijuana issue was going to be controversial. There’s no doubt about that.”