New York state lawmakers couldn’t approve marijuana legalization this session, and the legislature is now considering a back-up bill that would expand access to the drug for medical reasons and decriminalize its possession for recreational purposes.
As the legislature planned to end its session Wednesday, a last-minute push to enact the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act fell short, its primary sponsor said. The bill would have regulated and taxed pot sales, expunged criminal records of past offenders and identified beneficiaries of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
“It is clear now that MRTA is not going to pass this session,” said state Senator Liz Krueger in a prepared statement. “Through months of negotiation and conversation with the governor’s office and my legislative colleagues, we made great strides to improve our bill and bring more people on board. We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time.”
Krueger had argued the state needs to legalize pot to end decades of discrimination in arrests for marijuana possession and sales. While expressing confidence that legalization is inevitable, Krueger said “delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives up-ended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures.”
Meanwhile, New York state lawmakers continue to debate and consider another bill that would decriminalize pot possession introduced Sunday. That legislation would protect pot users without creating a regulatory system to oversee sales, product safety and taxation.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who backed the legalization effort, threw his support behind the decriminalization bill, saying “communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long.” A similar effort to legalize pot backed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also failed earlier this year.
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