Why Legalized Marijuana (Finally) Has a Chance in New York

Why Legalized Marijuana (Finally) Has a Chance in New York

Lawmakers are back in Albany for the legislative session, which runs through mid-June, and they’ve been tasked with the daunting challenge of fixing the financial damage the coronavirus has done. Now that Democrats have secured a supermajority in both chambers, they have the option to pursue left-wing policies without fear of a veto from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

To learn more about what New Yorkers can expect, I spoke to my colleague Jesse McKinley, who covers Albany.

Q: What are the top three things New Yorkers should look out for this session?

A: The top three will be money, money, money. The state is in an enormous hole — more than $60 billion over the next four years — and budgets all across the state are being crushed by the loss of jobs and tax revenue.

So starting from that point, a lot of debates will be framed around that. That includes the legalization of marijuana, which the governor proposed — again — on Wednesday. His top budget official, Robert Mujica, said that legal weed could raise $300 million a year. Now, that’s not a billion, but every little bit helps.

What else would raise revenue besides marijuana?

The same holds true for mobile sports betting, which Mr. Cuomo proposed as a revenue-raiser on Wednesday as well and could draw some money back from gamblers who are currently going to New Jersey, where such betting is already legal.

One age-old way of raising revenue, of course, is taxes, and many in Albany — including a rising number of progressives — want the state to raise taxes on the wealthy, and have proposed a wide variety of those, including those targeting billionaires, corporations and capital gains.

The governor has been opposed to new taxes on the wealthy in the past, but seems to be softening his tone in recent weeks as the scope of the economic damage continues, as does the coronavirus crisis.

What role will President-elect Joe Biden play this session?

The incoming Biden administration will be much more amenable to the idea of a federal bailout of New York, plus there is the likely ascension of Senator Chuck Schumer as majority leader. He’s a New Yorker, after all, and from Brooklyn to boot.

Mr. Cuomo is also known to have a good relationship with Joe Biden, which could help as well, though he has clashed with Mr. Schumer in the past.