Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated in a press conference that, he is no longer confident marijuana will be done in this year’s budget. The Governor cited the slow rate of progress as the reasons for his waning confidence. He said, “My advantage is I’ve been to this show before. I’ve seen this movie. Some of my colleagues have not seen the movie. You are two weeks from doing a budget. You have a long lead time to actually get the bills printed and done. The rate of progress does not suggest it’s going to happen.”
You’re watching a football game, they’re down by 30 points at halftime, the end of the third quarter they’re still down by 30 points. You start to get the feeling that they’re not going to make up the 30 points at this rate of progress, right? Half the time is gone and they haven’t made up any points. The progress on marijuana—I’ve had discussions with them on it. There is a wide divide on marijuana. I believe ultimately we can get there and we must get there. I don’t believe we get there in two weeks and also, that’s what the legislative leaders have said, right? And if they say, I don’t think we can get there by the budget, that basically means they’re not get going to get there by the budget, right?”
The Governor was asked if the wide divide was on the ins and outs of the program that would be approved or if there is more of a philosophical divide on whether or not they support allowing legal marijuana?
In response Governor Cuomo stated that, “What happens is, the philosophical dissolves to the practical. In other words, in concept, would it be fine? Yes. Now the PTAs start to call and say, well how do we make sure children aren’t going to get it and it’s not going to be sold near a school and you have to make sure you can’t have a straw purchaser. Can’t be like the old days where Jesse McKinley was underage and he sent in an 18-year-old to buy beer and then he walked down the block and he gave it to him. How do we stop that with marijuana? So now it becomes practical and that’s where we are, right? District Attorneys raise points, Sheriffs raised points, and they’re good points but now you have to work through them.”
The Governor stated that he wouldn’t agree to a budget that doesn’t include criminal justice reform because he, “does not believe they will do it after the budget.” He thinks the budget is the best chance for criminal justice reform because the budget is a point of reconciliation and it is the strongest point of reconciliation in the year. It forces people to make tough decisions. And it forces legislators to make tough decisions.
I have fought for this for seven years and I am not going to go through another year where we don’t do criminal justice reform, said the Governor. It is racially disparate. We’re talking about young people in Rikers Island, which is the worst jail in the state of New York, I’ve been yelling about it for seven years. Absolutely nothing has happened, nothing. They came up with a ten-year plan to replace Rikers Island. And they’ve made basically zero progress on it. Why? Because it’s Rikers Island. They’re poor, they’re powerless, otherwise they wouldn’t be in Rikers Island. Self-selecting. Like public housing authorities. I’m not going to go through this year and not have criminal justice reform. That is not going to happen. And if we don’t have it in the budget it means we would not get it by the end of the year. I have said I will meet personally with the legislators and try to mediate the criminal justice issues. I have done this in the past. Where we have a controversial issue I will literally take a sub-group of senators from the Senate, assembly people from the Assembly, I will put them in the room, I will lock the door, I will say, “we’re not leaving until we have a resolution.”