ALBANY – New York would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, launch programs to help communities that bore the brunt of the national and state drug war and eventually allow marijuana sales to people over the age of 21 under a sweeping bill that lawmakers passed Tuesday.
Known as the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, the bill now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has ten days to approve or veto once it lands on his desk — otherwise, the bill becomes law. He has said he will sign it.
The Senate voted 40-23 in favor and the Assembly approved it 100-49.
Local state Senator George Borrello (R) was among lawmakers voting against the measure.
“While I am personally opposed to legalization, if New York is determined to head down this path, then I believe we have a responsibility to craft a law that mitigates the risks to New Yorkers to the greatest extent possible, with no loopholes or gray areas,” said Borrello in a statement. “Regrettably, this bill doesn’t meet that standard.”
Borrello says the bill as it stands doesn’t go far enough to crack down on an increase in impaired driving caused by legalization.
“This legislation doesn’t contain stronger penalties or funding to address that reality,” furthered Borrello. “In fact, this measure will make it harder for police to enforce marijuana-related DWI’s with the new limits this bill places on law enforcement using the odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle to pursue a criminal charge.”
He says the bill also doesn’t include direct funding for police training to detect those driving high, something he has advocated for.
“Also noticeably absent is a direct appropriation to begin increasing the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) among the ranks of our police officers as I have been advocating for several weeks,” said Borrello. “DREs are highly trained police officers who use a 12-step evaluation process to identify the type of drug impacting a driver and are currently our best resource when it comes to combatting marijuana-impaired driving.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.