Legislature nears deal on recreational marijuana legalization – Times Union

Recreational Cannabis Legalisation

ALBANY — State legislators are nearing a deal to legalize recreational marijuana use for adult New Yorkers, but there’s currently an “impasse” on how to to deal with impaired driving and traffic stops by police, said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“It is a matter of when, not if. We are extremely close; we have continued to have negotiations and really have ironed out a lot of what we think would be important in terms of making sure that we do this right,” Stewart-Cousins said Tuesday during a news conference. “We have reached a little bit of an impasse right now, and it has to do with impaired driving there.”

Other legislative leaders have also indicated that a deal is close for legalization. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included marijuana legalization in his budget proposal this year as a way to raise revenues, but the state Assembly and Senate have instead worked to forge a bill outside of the budget process.

It is the third consecutive year that Cuomo has supported legalizing recreational marijuana; it has been blocked in the past by disagreements over how the revenue would be distributed to make up for past racial disparities in marijuana arrests. Other legislative leaders have also indicated that a deal is very close on legalizing marijuana.

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York said Tuesday morning that driving under the influence of marijuana should remain a misdemeanor crime rather than a traffic infraction.

“The classification of driving under the influence of cannabis as a traffic infraction would send the message to the driving public that driving while impaired is no big deal and will be treated the same as a speeding ticket,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley, who is president of DAASNY. “There will be less consequences for someone driving high on marijuana than driving while intoxicated by alcohol, yet they are both equally dangerous on our roadways.”

According to a report from the Manhattan district attorney’s office testing for marijuana on-scene during a traffic stop and determining whether someone is high in the moment, rather than having used the drug recently, remains a challenge. States where marijuana is legal handle enforcement differently, although some states are offering special training for police to recognize drug use. The data is unclear on how widespread a problem marijuana-impaired driving is.

Doorley and the association sent a letter to Cuomo expressing their concerns. The letter asks Cuomo to limit the number of home-grown plants allowed, to launch a public education campaign and to consider the risks of impaired driving.

“Part of this is a criminal justice aspect, part of it is also making sure that these communities have the opportunities to really benefit from the economies and the the industry, that will be created, and that communities that have been negatively impacted, are able to get resources put back into those communities,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We’re working hard on trying to get to an agreement. Like I said, we’re down to about one impasse and I call it an impasse, but I don’t think it is. I do think we’ll be able to resolve it.”