NY lawmaker backs pot legalization after past reservations

(Photo via nysenate.gov)

A New York lawmaker who last year expressed reservations over marijuana legalization is now backing a bill to make the drug legal.

State Sen. Pete Harckham, a Democrat who represents a swath of the Hudson Valley, has announced he is supporting a bill that legalizes and regulates marijuana. Support from Democrats in moderate districts like Harckham’s could be key as legislators push to legalize recreational marijuana this session.

Harckham said changes were made in the bill, which now provides extra funds for impaired driving enforcement and a social media campaign on marijuana’s health effects.

The measure would also funnel marijuana tax revenue to fund programs on drug treatment, early intervention and overdose prevention.

“The marketplace has spoken, so it’s time that we tax this and put that money to a social good,” said Harckham, who leads a state Senate committee on alcoholism and substance abuse.

The measure is carried by state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, in the Legislature’s upper chamber.