New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Calls For Legalization Of Recreational Cannabis

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ALBANY,
N.Y.
(AP)

New
York
Gov.
Andrew
Cuomo
used
his
annual
State
of
the
State
address
Wednesday
to
advocate
for
a
mix
of
“practical”
progressive
goals
and
urgent
responsibilities,
including
waging
war
on
hate
crimes,
spending
$3
billion
on
environmental
protection
and

legalizing
recreational
marijuana
.

The
third-term
Democrat
touted
past
achievements
and
trumpeted
a
long
list
of
policy
initiatives,
many
of
which
he
previewed
in
a
series
of
announcements
over
the
past
month.
Cuomo
also
stressed
the
need
for
fiscal
restraint,
with
the
state
staring
at
a
$6
billion
budget
gap,
caused
largely
by
soaring
Medicaid
spending.

The
agenda
Cuomo
outlined
in
the
speech
includes
plans
for
expanding
anti-discrimination
protections
in
the
state
constitution,
an
overhaul
for
New
York
City’s
Penn
Station
and
a
proposed
ban
on
foam
food
containers.
Cuomo
also
outlined
another
ban
that
would
cover
marketing
flavored
e-cigarettes
to
children,
initiatives
intended
to
lower
the
cost
of
prescription
drugs,
guaranteed
paid
sick
leave
time
for
more
New
York
workers
and
expanded
universal
pre-kindergarten.

“New
York
at
her
best
is
the
progressive
capitol
of
the
nation,
and
we
must
fulfill
that
destiny
again
this
year,”
Cuomo
said.

Cuomo
delivered
his
address
at
the
Empire
State
Plaza
Convention
Center
in
downtown
Albany
to
an
audience
of
members
of
the
Legislature
and
top
politicians
from
around
the
state.
The
speech
kicked
off
a
legislative
session
running
through
June
2.

The
governor’s
address
comes
after
several
episodes
of
violence
targeting
Jewish
people,
including
an
attack
by
a
man
who
stormed
inside
the
home
of
a
Monsey
rabbi,
Chaim
Rottenberg,
and
stabbed
five
people
at
a
Hanukkah
celebration.

Rottenberg
delivered
a
blessing
before
Cuomo’s
address
and
called
for
tolerance.

“I
will
never
forget
the
horror
of
that
night,”
Rottenberg
said.
“But
I
will
also
never
forget
how
we
continue
to
celebrate
after
that
day,
how
we
continue
to
rejoice
in
the
miracle
of
Hanukkah.
I
will
never
forget
the
resilience
on
display
that
night
and
in
the
following
days,
the
resilience
of
Jewish
people
and
the
resilience
of
New
York.”

Cuomo
is
proposing
a
new
law
targeted
at
domestic
terrorism
and
said
New
York
would
be
the
first
state
in
the
U.S.
to
enact
such
legislation.
The
new
law
would
apply
to
crimes
in
which
at
least
one
person
died
and
victims
were
targeted
by
their
race,
religion
and
gender,
among
other
topics.

Cuomo
called
the
attack
“intolerable”
and
pledged
the
state
won’t
stand
for
it.
“They
attacked
me,
and
they
attacked
you,”
Cuomo
said.

“These
are
the
times,
my
friends,
when
New
York
state
is
called
upon
to
lead
to
set
a
course
for
a
troubled
nation
searching
its
way
through
the
fog
of
confusion,”
he
said.

In
a
policy
briefing
book
that
accompanied
his
speech,
Cuomo
said
his
proposal
to
legalize
marijuana
would
limit
the
sale
of

cannabis

products
to
adults
over
age
21.
But
he
only
briefly
mentioned
his
legalization
proposal
in
his
address
Wednesday,
to
tepid
applause.

A
similar
proposal
to
legalize
recreational
marijuana
failed
last
year
among
disagreements
over
funding
and
hesitation
from
suburban
Democrats.
Lawmakers
instead
scaled
back
penalties
for
possession
of
small
amounts
of
marijuana
and
created
a
process
for
expungement.

Cuomo
has
declared
“Making
Progress
Happen”
as
his
slogan
for
2020.
But
any
progress
will
have
to
come
while
the
state
is
grappling
with
a
budget
gap
fueled
by
soaring
Medicaid
costs.
Debate
over
how
to
handle
the
shortfall
is
expected
to
color
virtually
every
policy
debate
this
year.

Hundreds
of
activists
rallied
in
Albany
demanding
action
on
issues
including
the
state’s
ambitious
climate
change
goals.

Cuomo
called
climate
change
the
“transcendent
threat
of
our
times”
and
proposed
sending
voters
a
$3
billion
bond
in
November
to
fund
a
flood
reduction
and
habitat
restoration
program
he
is
calling
Restore
Mother
Nature.

“Because
no
economic
strategy,
no
social
justice
reform,
no
education
policy
will
be
worth
a
damn
if
we
don’t
have
a
planet
to
live
on,”
he
said.

Cuomo
has
yet
to
share
many
details
about
his
plans
to
address
soaring
costs
of
the
Medicaid
program,
which
serves
over
6
million
people.

The
governor
called
Wednesday
for
improved
accountability
in
the
Medicaid
system,
saying
safeguards
were
needed
to
limit
potential
overspending
on
the
program
by
municipalities.

More
details
of
how
the
administration
plans
to
address
the
funding
gap
may
have
to
wait
for
his
budget
proposal,
expected
in
mid-January.

Cuomo
has
cautioned
against
overspending
while
pledging
not
to
raise
taxes.
That
budget-conscious
message
could
clash
with
more
left-leaning
lawmakers
and
advocates
who
want
to
balance
the
budget
with
new
taxes
on
the
wealthy.

The
governor’s
party
has
seen
big
political
wins
in
recent
years,
even
as
some
long-time
Democratic
incumbents
have
lost
to
more
left-wing
challengers.
But
Cuomo
argued
Wednesday
true
progressive
politics
must
be
grounded
in
“reality”
and
champion
results
over
rhetoric.

Republicans,
who
have
seen
their
clout
diminish
in
Albany,
say
they
will
hold
down
spending
and
resist
new
taxes.

Republican
leaders
including
state
GOP
chairman
Nick
Langworthy
criticized
the
governor
for
failing
to
address
the
budget
deficit
as
well
as
a
mounting
debate
over
bail
reforms
enacted
last
year.
Cuomo
and
other
Democrats
have
signaled
they
are
open
to
making
changes
to
the
statute.

In
his
preview
announcements
over
the
past
month,
Cuomo
has
released
proposals
to
ban
untraceable
guns,
study
high
speed
rail,
allow
liquor
sales
in
movie
theaters,
require
the
use
of
American-made
steel
and
iron
on
infrastructure
projects
and
ease
rules
for
prosecuting
sexual
assault
involving
intoxicated
victims,
among
other
initiatives.

Assembly
Speaker
Carl
Heastie,
a
Democrat,
said
lawmakers
have
their
own
priorities
this
year,
including
working
to
increase
school
aid,
affordable
housing,
infrastructure,
local
businesses,
rural
hospitals
and
mental
healthcare.


By
Marina
Villeneuve
and
Ryan
Tarinelli

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