Democratic Sen. Peter Harckham was a willing student of marijuana legalization. 

Last year, he wanted a slower process as lawmakers worked their way through the negotiations of the bill — which ultimately ended with the session ending in June and no broader deal on the measure. 

Last week, Harckham announced he could support the bill with the inclusion of more funding for substance abuse services and a public education campaign aimed at kids.

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Harckham described a year of doing his homework on the issue; meeting with people in their homes, discussing the issue over coffee and in hearings. He also went to Massachusetts to visit a cannabis dispensary. 

"I've been in Massachusetts," he said. "The sky is not falling over there."

Democrats like Harckham, a suburban lawmaker who chairs the Senate's Substance Abuse Committee, will be key for whether the bill can pass this year in the state Legislature.

Suburban voters are split over the issue, a Siena College poll this month found, and law enforcement's concerns over traffic safety haven't evaporated. Harckham's office on Tuesday was the site of a news conference by opponents of the legalization effort. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview earlier in the morning once again raised the possibility of the measure not happening, unless it is agreed to as part of the state budget. 

Harckham, though, isn't much interested in the politics of the process. Instead, he said he was focused on efforts to combat drug abuse. 

"People talk about the politics of it, I'm talking about saving lives," he said.  

A turning point was speaking with Sen. Liz Krueger, the Democratic sponsor of the Senate bill. 

"I came to Liz," he said. "Liz was terrific to work with. She did what a legislator should. I did my homework on this."