Are New York lawmakers on board with legal marijuana?

Published: Jan. 4, 2019 at 6:17 PM EST
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Is legal pot a possibility in New York? It's on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's to-do list but he needs to get state lawmakers on board. Our Kelly O'Brien spoke with one of them to see if legal marijuana has a chance of becoming law.

In his inaugural address, Cuomo promised in his first 100 days New York would see some pretty progressive bills going to the Legislature, including legalizing marijuana.

"From voting reforms to Roe v. Wade for New York, to protecting a woman's right to choose, to better gun laws, to health care protection, to legalizing marijuana, to protecting the labor movement, to agreeing to new deals, to real criminal justice reform: we will make history," said Cuomo, D-New York.

Cuomo brought a lot of ideas to the table but one topic, in particular, has local lawmakers asking questions.

"There's different things in the legalization and how it's implemented. Will there be dispensaries? How will it be taxed? Will there be personal growth?" said Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay.

Last year, Cuomo created a task force, tapping experts to plot a path toward legalization. Their findings show the state would benefit when it comes to health, economics and criminal justice impacts, but local lawmakers are hesitant.

"I want to take a look at that but I certainly still want to hear from my residents in the North Country," Jones said.

"I don't really have a strong opinion, but I have an opinion if it is legalized," said John Weitzmann of Plattsburgh.

Weitzmann says he has concerns about users getting behind the wheel.

"I don't use marijuana so I don't know exactly how it affects you as of driving compared to alcohol, but I know here are a lot of concerns of people driving under the influence of THC," Weitzmann said.

Mayor Colin Read, D-Plattsburgh, is interested in the impacts on the criminal justice system.

"Certainly already it's illegal to be driving under the influence of drugs, so we would have to deal with all that, too," Read said. "But as you know, we put an awful lot of people in jail for simple drug possession and I think that Governor Cuomo is trying to show some leadership to make sure jails aren't full of those sorts of things."

Jones said he believes the votes are there for legalization to pass, but he wouldn't say how he would vote. He said he would need to see the bill before he makes any decisions.