Marijuana debate could ignite in Albany
With states across the country including neighboring Vermont and New Jersey legalizing or likely to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, debate on the question is coming back to Albany.
Three state Assembly committees held a joint hearing Thursday in New York City on a proposed bill that would legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana for recreational use — usually by smoking it. New York has had legalized medical marijuana since 2016, but only in pill form.
Any legalization move, however, would need to overcome the opposition of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
“It’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” Cuomo said during a visit to Schenectady last February. “There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana.”
Any new debate will take place as at least a half-dozen states consider legalization, some of them within the last few weeks, in what appears to be a direct response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decison earlier this month to reverse Obama-era policies that had federal law enforcement not confront states where pot is legal.
Sessions’ new policy put him at odds with 29 states that allow medical use of marijuana, as well as eight states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and California — that allow recreational use under laws that have passed in the last six years.
Since Sessions’ announcement, Vermont and New Hampshire are moving toward legalization, and it looks likely to get serious consideration in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. States that legalize pot typically regulate and tax it, giving them a new source of revenue — one that could be threatened if there is a new federal crackdown on pot use.
“Obviously, since Sessions rescinding the rule, people have been angry and