Lawmakers tweak recreational marijuana proposal

Plan adds language expunging certain criminal records

ALBANY — State lawmakers in Albany aren't giving up on approving recreational marijuana this year.

Legislation legalizing adult-use of marijuana was amended Friday afternoon to address concerns raised during state budget negotiations this spring, as Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo try to get on the same page before the legislative session ends next month.

The proposal from Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, was tweaked to bring the legislative language in line with the concept of creating an Office of Cannabis Management floated by Cuomo in his budget proposal. Medical marijuana, hemp and cannabidiol would also be regulated by the office.

The plan also adds expungement language nullifying marijuana convictions for activities that are decriminalized by the legislation and commits money to law enforcement agencies to address driving issues.

"We have amended this bill to reflect the ideas and concerns that came up through the budget process, and we have a stronger bill as a result,"Krueger said. "There is still time left in the session to see this bill pass, and see adult-use cannabis legalized with a strong commitment to restorative justice for the communities hit hardest by the war on drugs."

While the governor initially planned on approving marijuana legalization in the first 100 days of his administration, negotiations with state lawmakers stalled and it was dropped from the final budget.

The amended legislation from Democratic lawmakers reflects an attempt to "mirror" the proposal from the governor.

The legislation still allows for New Yorkers to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes, which was prohibited in Cuomo's plan, and maintains language that 50 percent of government revenue is invested into communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, who is sponsoring the legislation, said earlier in the week that the amended language preserved the core principles advanced by proponents in the Legislature.

"It is my hope that this legislation will be approved by the Legislature, and there will not be a need to take up separate legislation that updates the medical marijuana program, and regulates hemp/CBD," Peoples-Stokes said.

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