Sen. Liz Krueger optimistic about pot legalization in 2020

State Senator Liz Krueger speaking about the state of marijuana legalization during a CannaGather networking event held in The New School's Auditorium. (Photo by Dave Meketansky) 

State Senator Liz Krueger thinks that 2020 could be the year marijuana is legalized.

“I think that 2020 could be the year we get it done,” said Krueger to a crowd of professionals eager to join the cannabis industry at last night’s CannaGather, a monthly networking event for cannabis industry professionals, at The New School’s Auditorium.

Krueger explained that she along with Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, joint sponsors of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, have been busy redrafting the bill based on where legislators had “handshake deals” at the end of session, when lawmakers failed to come to an agreement and pass the bill.

Although progress on legalizing marijuana was stalled, legislators were able to decriminalize possession of the drug and expunge low-level marijuana convictions.

“I’m much more optimistic that the governor might be more interested in a taking a stab at it again,” she said, adding that the reasons for her optimism were two-fold. First, because of the recent talks about vaping-related deaths, and secondly, because of the governor’s interest in a regional approach to legalizing marijuana.

On Oct. 17, Governor Cuomo joined Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey governors to talk about a joint approach to legalizing marijuana and to discussing vaping issues.

Krueger admitted during the lecture-like event that the third version the marijuana legalization bill was never entered into the computer system during the last legislative session and that it became a “laundry list” of issues that legislators needed to tackle but that there are handful of issues that rise above the rest.

One of the key issues for Governor Cuomo and upstate legislators on the fence about marijuana legalization is nailing down how to accurately test if drivers are “under the influence” of marijuana and are a danger behind the wheel, said Krueger. There is no equivalent of a breathalyzer test for cannabis.

“So, there is a real concern and there is no perfect answer,” she said.

A second concern is about the marketing of cannabis products to children. There is a concern among legislators, including the governor about the selling fruity candy edibles that might appeal to children in the state.

Legislators also want to ensure that there is a plan for standardized lab testing for CBD, hemp products, and cannabis THC to ensure that products are not mixed with anything that could cause harm to consumers, like vitamin E acetate in THC vape pens. Law makers want to make sure that products are what they are. One study from the University of Pennsylvania found that 70 percent of CBD products sold online where mislabeled with 43 percent containing more CBD and 26 percent containing less than indicated.

Krueger said that she and Peoples-Stokes are focused on reinvesting funds back into communities “where the harm was done through prohibition,” and said that there are talks of using a portion of the money being allocated going towards helping those with serious substance abuse issues as well as public campaigns about the dangers or drugs.

Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech