New York Senate Committee on Finance Approves Adult-Use Cannabis Bill
Christopher Boswell | Adobe Stock

New York Senate Committee on Finance Approves Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

Committee members unite in applauding Sen. Krueger’s sponsorship efforts, but some remain mixed on support.

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March 30, 2021

New York’s adult-use cannabis legislation efforts gained official approval in the Senate Committee on Finance during a brief meeting Tuesday morning, when the 23-member body opened Senate Bill S854A for discussion before voting to clear it.

In addition to acting as the committee chair, Sen. Liz Krueger (D) is the primary sponsor of the bill, the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” which she first introduced seven years ago. The bill recently picked up steam March 28, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced an agreement to move forward on it after months of debate, which included Cuomo’s 30-day amendment plan.

The Senate Finance Committee members united Tuesday morning to show their support of Krueger’s sponsorship efforts, but they remained mixed in their individual support of the legislation.

“Madam Chair, thank you very much,” Sen. John Liu (D) said. “I just want to congratulate you on a really long, persistent and hard-fought road, and I think this legislation is landmark for New York, as well as far beyond, and I’m in full support.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Thomas O’Mara (R) said he did not want to debate the legislation in committee, specifically regarding the finance issues related to the bill, but he said he anticipates a full and robust debate and discussion of the legislation on the floor of the upper chamber Tuesday afternoon.

O’Mara was one of five senators who opposed clearing the measure through committee; he was joined by Sens. George Borrello (R), Patrick Gallivan (R), Sue Serino (R) and James Tedisco (R).

While he dissented, Gallivan applauded Krueger’s sponsorship efforts: “You are to be commended for your hard work. You have always been an incredibly hard worker and standing up for the things you believe in,” he said. “This bill is one of those things. I’ll be voting against it, though.

“I remain extremely concerned, as do many of my constituents who have reached out over time and the last couple days about public health and public safety aspects of this in workplace safety concerns. And I would hope—I know we have a ways to go—once this gets out and it’s passed, there’s a lot of work to be done to adopt the regulations, but there’s also a lot of time to work in the areas that will need improvement.”

Concerns have also extended to the possibilities of impaired driving and increased consumption among minors in other states considering adult-use legislation.

Also central to discussion among many states currently considering adult-use legislation are efforts for social equity through taking into considering the people and communities impacted by prohibition. Sen. Leroy Comrie, a Black Democrat whose 14th District includes Queens, a borough of New York City, said he supports his state’s bill and righting the wrongs of prohibition.

“My community has been negatively impacted by marijuana, and the sales and distribution issues, and also the people that have been unjustly incarcerated overwhelmingly, and also the social impacts on marijuana as well,” he said. “And I look forward to having these opportunities to have meetings and hearings so that we can make sure that the communities that have been most impacted are getting the opportunities, getting the resources necessary to clear up those historical problems that have happened within our communities.”