ALBANY, N.Y. — New York State appears to be taking a step closer to legalizing marijuana.
In an interview with 2 On Your Side's Claudine Ewing, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said the passage of recreational marijuana is looking very likely. Peoples-Stokes told Ewing that something should be available in writing either Wednesday night or Thursday, and a vote likely next week.
This comes a few hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a virtual press conference that legalizing marijuana is a top priority in this year's budget.
"I just had a discussion this morning with someone," Cuomo said. "We've been trying to legalize cannabis for three years. I failed every year. We're close, but we've been close three times before.
The governor says he understands that there is opposition to legalizing marijuana, but argues that it's already here in New York State.
"We have passed the point of legalized cannabis," Cuomo said. "It's in New Jersey. It's in Massachusetts. To say we're going to stop it is not an option. It is here. The only question is, do we regulate it here, do we gather the revenue here, or do we have people driving to New Jersey, which is right there, or to Massachusetts if you're in a northern part of the state, but it is here."
Last week Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the legislature is "extremely close" to a deal on legalization, with a hang-up still about impaired driving.
Peoples-Stokes hopes the legislation passes soon.
"It's my hope that it shows up next week, but I'm not the one to make that call," she said.
This legislation has been a process years in the making but it doesn't come without concerns.
R. Lorraine Collins, a public health expert from the University at Buffalo, says, "New York faces what every other jurisdiction in the world faces, which is we do not have an easy and accurate way of measuring cannabis in a person's body." Collins says while a sort of cannabis breathalyzer is being researched, it's very early on and regulation will be the main road for enforcement.
New York State may end up investing in such research, which Collins says would be welcomed but should come with tempered expectations although, with 14 other states ahead of New York in legalizing marijuana, there is somewhat of a road map in place.