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New York debate over legalizing marijuana persists in 2020

Authorizing adult-use cannabis is one of Governor Andrew Cuomo's many goals in 2020.

NEW YORK — As more states across the country have legalized recreational marijuana, New York lags behind.

Cannabis advocate Nhi Kha was one of the many people who lobbied in Albany last year. She told 2 on Your Side, "I think decriminalization in 2019 was the first of many steps in the right direction for New York State."

Although the legislature didn't legalize adult-use marijuana last year, Kha, the co-founder of Sativa Remedy in Tonawanda, has high hopes for 2020.

She said, "One of the things we do here at Sativa Remedy is we really advocate for this plant. We really advocate for the legalization of this plant."

In his written 2020 State of the State, the Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined his goals for marijuana in New York.

His proposal said in part:

"Cannabis legalization has the potential to have a significant economic impact on distressed areas in New York creating thousands of new jobs, spurring billions in economic activity and generating an estimated $300 million in tax revenue when fully implemented."

However, our local state lawmakers appear to be split on the issue.

"Never say never, but right now I'm a strong no against this," State Senator Chris Jacobs said. 

Jacobs worries legalization would drive more usage, and he thinks New York should wait until we have more data from other states.

"What's the rush? I think the rush is the money," he said.

After all, the governor is facing a $6 billion budget deficit

Assemblyman Pat Burke told 2 On Your Side over the phone he believes legalizing recreational marijuana will likely happen at some point in New York, but not necessarily in 2020. 

"I'm looking forward to the debate, if it does come up, and weighing the facts and really trying to get past all the rhetoric and the fear and get to the heart of an argument," he said. "Is this beneficial to the community? Are there consequences that we're not considering?"

Kha said if and when the state does legalize marijuana, it's important lawmakers get it right.

She believes social justice and social equity should be at the forefront of the discussions.

"We want to ensure that everyone's voice is heard and everyone has a seat at the table and that when this law does come to fruition, that everyone can benefit from it," Cah added. 

Sativa Remedy is hosting a grassroots lobbying training class with Roc NORML and WNY NORML, two organizations working to reform cannabis laws. 

The event will be held Saturday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Sativa Remedy on Main Street in Tonawanda.

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