ALBANY -- Some Democrats in the state Legislature on Monday called on New York to legalize recreational marijuana, saying the drug should be taxed and regulated.
They reintroduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that would create a legal market for marijuana, urging that the decriminalization of pot disproportionately hurts communities of color.
"This is not about usage," Sen. Jamaal Bailey, a freshman Democrat from the Bronx who also represents parts of Westchester County, said.
"This is about making sure we are making smart decisions on behalf of our state economically and making sure the prohibitions that are in our communities of color are taken away."
The bill's support comes less than two weeks before the end of the legislative session and stand no chance of passage in the Republican-led Senate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has also not supported the legalization of marijuana.
But the bill's sponsor, Buffalo Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, said the goal is to build support for the measure. She pointed out that Cuomo once opposed medical marijuana, but he changed his mind, and the state passed a law in 2014 to legalize it.
The bill would legalize marijuana for those 21 years or older and establish a system where it could be grown, regulated and taxed.
"Time changes people’s opinion," she said. "Public opinion changes people’s opinion, and so what this is about growing attention to an issue that is really important."
New York has neighboring states that are legalizing marijuana. Massachusetts last year legalized recreational marijuana, and Vermont is also nearing a deal to do the same. Nationally, seven states have legalized it.
Cuomo has sought to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, but the plan has not passed the Senate.
Cuomo told reporters in February he was not ready to back the legalization of marijuana in New York.
"There’s two sides to the argument, but I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana," Cuomo said then.
"If you choose to use marijuana recreationally, you know the law."