Concerns over impaired driving are one of the final hurdles in the negotiations over a bill that would legalize adult-use cannabis in New York, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Tuesday said.
Lawmakers are close to a deal, which could be reached in the coming days, which would open one of the largest markets in the country to cannabis products and allow small amounts of the plant to be grown in homes.
"We are extremely close. We have reached a little bit of an impasse right now and it has to do with impaired driving," Stewart-Cousins told reporters during a video news conference. "We're trying to figure a way forward so there can be some understanding of safety."
The issue over traffic safety — essentially determining if a person has imbibed cannabis before getting behind the wheel of a car — has been raised in prior negotiations over the bill, which has stalled for the last several years in Albany. It's an issue that has been raised by opponents of the measure, including a range of school groups in the state.
Stewart-Cousins declined to give a timetable for when a deal might be reached, but lawmakers have made clear they want to pass the measure outside of the state budget, due at the end of the month.
"I'm optimistic it can be resolved sooner rather than later," she said.
The legalization measure would follow a 2019 bill that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana possession in the state. At the same time, lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have backed the creation of social equity to aid communities affected by harsher drug laws.
"It's no secret how disparately impacted Black and brown communities have been by the disproportionate arrests and incarcerations by people with marijuana," Stewart-Cousins said. "We know it will have a criminal justice aspect."