ALBANY — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the state is not likely to authorize marijuana for adult use as part of its budget process, dealing a blow to advocates who have spent years pushing for full legalization of the drug.
Cuomo, a Democrat, had proposed legalizing recreational marijuana as part of his initial $178 billion state budget proposal in January.
But with a key budget deadline looming and the coronavirus crisis complicating negotiations with the Legislature, Cuomo said legalization likely won’t make the final spending plan.
New York’s fiscal year begins Wednesday, meaning Cuomo and lawmakers have to strike a deal Tuesday and complete voting in order for a budget to be in place on time.
“Not likely,” Cuomo said when asked Tuesday whether marijuana legalization will be in the final budget.”Too much, too little time.”
It remained unclear Tuesday afternoon whether Cuomo and lawmakers would be able to meet the budget deadline.
Coronavirus hits NY budget hard
New York has been hit harder than any other state by the coronavirus outbreak, which has had a significant impact on the state’s finances.
Cuomo’s office has estimated the crisis could cause the state to lose at least $10 billion in revenue, which the governor has said makes it necessary to give him broad authority to periodically adjust payments as the state learns how much tax revenue it actually brings in through the year.
The Democrat-led Legislature approved resolutions Sunday and Monday that will allow them to vote in many circumstances without being physically present in the Senate or Assembly chamber.
The measure was in response to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least five lawmakers — four in the Assembly, one in the Senate.
Under state law, lawmakers have their pay withheld when a budget is late. That pay is then released when a final spending plan is in place.
Bail reform changes still in play
Cuomo did suggest Tuesday that he and legislative leaders continued to negotiate potential changes to the state’s bail-reform laws, which blocked judges from requiring defendants to post cash bail for many crimes.
Bail-reform advocates have called on Cuomo and lawmakers to resist changes to the new system, arguing that the state’s prior laws unfairly penalized many defendants who were presumed innocent and kept in jail simply because they couldn’t afford bail.
Even law-enforcement officials, many of whom have been highly critical of the new bail laws, have urged Cuomo and lawmakers to be more deliberative, asking them to take negotiations over bail and other criminal-justice reforms out of the budget process.
Patrick Phelan, police chief in the Monroe County town of Greece, called on state leaders to negotiate bail changes after the coronavirus crisis passes.
“We have been calling strongly for necessary amendments to last year’s criminal justice reforms, but we would prefer that they be done in a calm, deliberative process after this crisis has waned,” said Phelan, president of the state Association of Chiefs of Police.