New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said on Tuesday that passing marijuana legalization before the end of the legislative session is a top-10 priority.
Efforts to legalize cannabis through the legislature have stalled in part due to a changing political dynamic in light of neighboring New Jersey’s failure to get a legalization bill over the finish line this year and because some senators want voters to first approve the idea of ending cannabis prohibition through a referendum, he said.
But in two separate radio interviews, the governor challenged lawmakers to capitalize on a growing pro-legalization sentiment and get a bill to his desk before the session ends on June 19.
Cuomo seemed open to the prospect of a referendum vote, but he made clear that the fight in the legislature isn’t over yet. He expressed frustration that lawmakers are falling short of their legalization promise for political reasons and not necessarily because they take issue with the merits of cannabis reform.
A revised version of a pending legalization bill was introduced in the legislature on Friday, with new provisions that would allow for the expungement of records for prior cannabis-related convictions and set guidelines for the production, processing and sale of marijuana, for example.
Cuomo’s original plan was to include cannabis legalization in the state budget but, after failing to reach compromises with legislators ahead of the April 1 deadline, it was ultimately cut from the spending package. That version included some provisions that proved controversial for advocates, including a ban on home cultivation that several large marijuana businesses pushed for.
The amended version of the pending standalone bill does provide for home cultivation.
Cuomo said the expungement addition wasn’t a “dealbreaker”—even though his initial proposal called for the the less-far-reaching step of sealing of records—but added that some thorny