MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION HOLD UP

New Yorkers thought marijuana might be legal in the state by now, why the hold up?

Aired on May 3, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

UP IN SMOKE, LITERALLY.

WITH A PROJECTED $300 MILLION IN TAX REVENUE FOR THE STATE MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION DID NOT MOVE FORWARD IN NEW YORK'S BUDGET.

THE QUESTION IS WHY?

THE ISSUES ARE MANY FOR ADVOCATES AND OPPONENTS ON BOTH SIDES AND ANY WAY YOU ROLL IT THERE IS A CANNABIS CONUNDRUM CONSUMING THE CAPITAL.

JOIJ US NOW WITH INSIGHT IS ROSS BARKIN.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

LET'S TALK, I GUESS, THE MARIJUANA OR THE WEED BEAT, IF YOU WILL.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE POSSIBILITY OF LEGALIZATION IN NEW YORK STATE?

SO A LOT OF ADVOCATES FOR LEGALIZATION WERE HOPING THAT MARK LEGALIZATION WOULD BE IN THE STATE BUDGET, WHICH WAS JUST PASSED $177 BILLION BUDGET AND THE HOPE WAS IT WOULD BE DONE THERE.

A LOT OF MAJOR POLICY WAS DONE IN THE STATE BUDGET AND ONCE IT'S DONE THERE MARIJUANA IS LEGALIZED IN NEW YORK.

THAT DID NOT HAPPEN FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS, LEGALIZATION DID NOT MAKE IT INTO THE BUDGET SO NOW IT'S GOING TO HAVE TO PASS IN THE SESSION WHICH WILL GO UNTIL JUNE.

SO THAT WILL BE A STAND-ALONE PIECE OF LEGISLATION AND THERE WILL BE CHALLENGES ACCOMPANYING THAT.

SO RIGHT NOW FOR ADVOCATES AND FOR OPPONENTS THE FIGHT REALLY MOVES TO THESE NEXT THREE MONTHS WHERE THE FATE OF LEGALIZATION WILL BE DECIDED.

OF COURSE AND THAT IS INFAMOUSLY KNOWN AS THE BIG UGLY IN ALBANY.

SO WE'VE HEARD FROM THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PROPONENTS FOR THIS WHO ARE SUPPORTERS SAYING THAT WE'RE GOING TO GET ALL THIS TAX REVENUE AND ALL THESE GREAT BUSINESSES THAT CAN COME TO NEW YORK STATE AND OF COURSE LOOK AT COLORADO, THEY ARE JUST SWIMMING IN CASH.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OPPONENTS SAYING?

WELL, THE OPPONENTS COME FROM A FEW DIFFERENT PLACES.

YOU HAVE LAW ENFORCEMENT UNIONS WHO ARE AFRAID THAT IT WILL BE HARDER TO TEST SOMEONE WHO IS DRIVING WHILE HIGH, YOU HAVE MEDICAL GROUPS THAT HAVE ALSO RAISED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MEDICAL REASONS FOR NOT SMOKING MARIJUANA OR THE FEAR THAT MORE PEOPLE WILL SMOKE IT AND THIS COULD HAVE AN ADVERSE IMPACT ON YOUR HEALTH.

YOU ALSO HAVE PTA GROUPS, SO THERE IS AN EDUCATIONAL COMPONENT TO THIS, THE FEAR THERE WILL BE MARIJUANA PROLIFERATION AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE.

SO YOU HAVE OPPOSITION COMING FROM A FEW DIFFERENT SECTORS AND IT'S POTENT, IT'S REAL, IT'S REAL SIGNIFICANT AND THEN YOU HAVE THE LEGISLATORS THEMSELVES, MANY OF WHOM ARE UNDECIDED.

EVEN FOR PEOPLE WHO DO WANT TO SEE IT LEGALIZED I UNDERSTAND EVEN SOME OF THOSE LAWMAKERS HAVE CAVEATS THAT THEY WANT TO SEE MADE CRYSTAL CLEAR AND ATTACHED TO THIS LEGISLATION.

PEOPLE WHO WANT TO SEE THINGS LIKE MAKING SURE THAT THE INDUSTRY ALSO EMPOWERS THE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR THAT HAVE BEEN HIT HARD BY THE LAW ENFORCEMENT ASPECT OF MARIJUANA, BUT WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER ISSUES THAT PEOPLE ARE ALSO HOLDING OUT ON SAYING I'M NOT GOING TO VOTE FOR THIS UNLESS THIS IS IN THE LEGISLATION?

WHAT YOU JUST BROUGHT UP IS CERTAINLY A BIG PART OF THAT IS CORRECT THE SPEAKER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY AND THE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER ARE BOTH BLACK.

YOU HAVE A LOT OF BLACK LAWMAKERS WHO ARE CONCERNED JUST ABOUT THIS ISSUE IN PARTICULAR, WHICH IS IF WE ARE GOING TO LEGALIZE WILL ENTREPRENEURS OF COLOR HAVE ACCESS TO THE MARKET.

THERE HAVE BEEN CONCERNS IN OTHER STATES WHERE IT'S MOSTLY WEALTHY WHITE ENTREPRENEURS WHO HAVE COME IN AND REALLY MADE A KILLING OFF OF MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION.

THOSE MINORITY WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES WHO WOULD LIKE ACCESS TO SUCH A MARKET AREN'T REALLY GETTING MUCH ACCESS.

OF COURSE, YOU HAVE THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE COMPONENT WHICH IS FOR A LONG TIME WE'VE SEEN DISPROPORTIONATE ARRESTS FOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION HAVE BEEN OF PEOPLE OF COLOR.

WE KNOW MARIJUANA IS CONSUMED ILLEGALLY ACROSS RACIAL DEMOGRAPHICS, BUT ARRESTS REALLY HAVE TARGETED PEOPLE OF COLOR.

SO THE QUESTION IS HOW DO WE FIND SOME WAY TO RECTIFY THAT AND ALSO WILL SOME OF THE REVENUE RAISED FROM LEGALIZATION GO TO THESE COMMUNITIES, EITHER TO JOB RETRAINING PROGRAMS, TO SOME TYPE OF EQUITY FUND.

SO THESE ARE THE OUTSTANDING DETAILS.

WE'VE TALKED ABOUT LEGISLATORS, BUT THE EXECUTIVE IN THIS STATE SEEMS TO HAVE HAD AN ABOUT FACE ON THE ISSUE OF MARIJUANA.

OF COURSE, NEITHER ONE OF US IS IN HIS HEAD, BUT WHY THE CHANGE OF HEART?

SO ANDREW CUOMO THE GOVERNOR FOR A LONG TIME WAS AN OPPONENT OF LEGALIZATION, HE FOR YEARS CALLED IT A GATEWAY DRUG, WHICH NO -- THERE IS NO -- NO EVIDENCE OR SCANT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THAT SMOKING MARIJUANA WILL MEAN YOU SUDDENLY DO HARDER DRUGS, BUT THIS IS A VIEW HELD BY A LOT OF PEOPLE, INCLUDING THE GOVERNOR FOR A LONG TIME.

I PERSONALLY THINK HE SHIFTED FOR A FEW REASONS, ONE, HE SAW THE ISSUES INCREASINGLY POPULAR, MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION CONSISTENTLY POLLS WELL, AND SECONDLY HIS PRIMARY LAST YEAR CYNTHIA NIXON THE ACTRESS RAN A PRIMARY AGAINST HER -- AGAINST HIM, SHE DID NOT WIN, BUT SHE WAS A STAUNCH SUPPORTER OF LEGALIZATION AND I'M SURE THE GOVERNOR TOOK NOTE OF THAT.

SO YOU HAVE THE WINDS SHIFTING, HE'S SOMEONE WHO HAS ALWAYS WANTED TO BE PERCEIVED AS A PROGRESSIVE LEADER AND SO IT'S HARD TO BE A, QUOTE/UNQUOTE, PROGRESSIVE LEADER LEADING ONE OF THE LARGEST STATES IN AMERICA, AT THE SAME TIME BEING AGAINST LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA.

SO I DO BELIEVE THE POLITICAL CURRENTS HAVE CHANGED AND HE HAS CHANGED WITH THEM AND HE APPEARS TO BE EARNEST ABOUT GETTING THIS DONE.

HE SEES IT AS PART OF HIS LEGACY.

OKAY.

BECAUSE THAT WAS GOING TO BE THE OTHER QUESTION SINCE THIS ISN'T MAKE IT INTO THE BUDGET AND OF COURSE THIS REALLY LEAVES THE POSSIBILITY OF LEGALIZATION IN A VERY PRECARIOUS PLACE, IS THERE A SENSE OF URGENCY, BECAUSE, AGAIN, WHEN YOU HAVE AS MUCH AS $300 MILLION IN TAX REVENUE POTENTIALLY ON THE LINE AND OTHER STATES, I MEAN, WE'VE SEEN LEGALIZATION, I BELIEVE, IN MASSACHUSETTS HAPPENING, IS THERE AN URGENCY IN ALBANY TO GET THIS DONE BEFORE NEARBY STATES --

I THINK THERE IS CERTAINLY AMONG A LOT OF LEGISLATORS THIS URGENCY.

HOW HARD WILL CUOMO PUSH FOR THIS.

THAT IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION, IT'S ALWAYS THE QUESTION OF ANDREW CUOMO BECAUSE HE WILL SUPPORT THINGS, HE WILL QUIETLY WITHDRAW SUPPORT IF HE SEES IT'S SOFTER, IF HE DOESN'T SEE THE POTENTIAL FOR VICTORY.

SO ON THE EXECUTIVE FRONT IT'S TO BE DETERMINED.

I DO THINK A LOT OF THE MORE PROGRESSIVE LEGISLATORS DO WANT TO GET THIS DONE IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS.

YOU HAVE I BELIEVE IT'S TEN OTHER STATES HAVE LEGALIZED MARIJUANA.

IT'S A REVENUE SOURCE, IT'S A CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUE.

THERE'S ALSO THE FEAR THAT IF IT'S NOT DONE NOW IT WILL BE HARDER NEXT YEAR BECAUSE STATE LEGISLATORS ARE ELECTED EVERY TWO YEARS, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE VERY COMPETITIVE ELECTIONS IN 2020, THERE ARE STATE SENATORS PARTICULARLY THOSE IN THE SUBURBS WHERE THE LAW ENFORCEMENT UNIONS ARE VERY POWERFUL WHO ARE SKITTISH ABOUT THIS.

THERE IS A BILL RIGHT NOW IN THE LEGISLATURE TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA, IT HAS 15 CO-SPONSORS, NONE OF THEM ARE FROM LONG ISLAND, THERE'S SIX LONG ISLAND DEMOCRATS OUT THERE, THERE ARE ALSO OTHER SUBURBAN LAWMAKERS AND UPSTATE LAWMAKERS WHO HAVE YET TO SIGN ON.

SO FOR ADVOCATES THE QUESTION REALLY IS IF WE DON'T GET IT DONE NOW, WILL IT BE EVEN HARDER IN 2020?

I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND OF COURSE FOR STAYING ON THE STORY LINE.

I'M SURE IT'S NOT OFFICIALLY THE WEED BEAT, BUT WHATEVER IT IS --

CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT.

-- IT IS DEFINITELY GOING TO BE AN IMPORTANT STORY TO CONTINUE FOLLOWING TO THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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