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Marijuana legalization in NYC “ran out of time” this year

The 2018 Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Marijuana Mermaids at the 2018 Coney Island Mermaid Parade (more by Amanda Hatfield)

Those looking forward to enjoying the fruits of what at one point seemed like the inevitable legalization of weed in New York will have a while longer to wait. The 2019 New York State legislative session, which was supposed to have ended on Wednesday, is being extended as lawmakers attempt to reach decisions on a few final matters, the New York Post reports. The bill to legalize marijuana in the state, however, won’t be one of them. “It is clear now that MRTA [Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act] is not going to pass this session. We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time,” Manhattan democratic senator Liz Krueger, who sponsored the bill, said. “This is not the end of the road, it is only a delay. Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives up-ended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures before we inevitably legalize.”

Bronx democratic senator Jamaal Bailey is sponsoring an alternate bill focusing on decriminalizing small amounts of weed, and sealing the records of those with prior arrests under certain conditions, Democrat & Chronicle reports. “Anything we can do to stem the tide of this failed war on drugs in black and brown communities is that something I’m more than happy to do. It’s a step in the right direction,” Bailey says.

From The New York Times:

Still, it remains unclear how much support decriminalization has in the Legislature. Ms. Krueger said on Wednesday that the Senate Democrats had not yet discussed the proposal and that she was “torn” about it, worrying that it would deflate future efforts for full legalization.

The failure to fully legalize marijuana was a blow to supporters who had held rallies in the State Capitol, bought social media advertisements and hired public relations firms for a furious last-minute campaign. On Tuesday, state lawmakers from Illinois, who successfully passed a legalization bill last month, traveled to Albany to meet with their New York counterparts.

A recent poll showed that 55 percent of voters supported legalization.

But the external pressure could not resolve an intraparty battle between state officials over who should control the estimated $1.7 billion in sales the recreational market could generate each year.

New Jersey, which also seemed very close to legalizing pot, had its own failure on this front when lawmakers wound up without enough supporters to move forward with a vote earlier this year.

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