The political turmoil over marijuana comes as five northeastern Democratic governors announced last month that they had reached an agreement to fully legalize marijuana. Three of the states — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where Democrats are in complete control of the government — already have spent months squabbling over the specifics of complex legislation that would legalize cannabis sales.
The sharp divisions among rank-and-file lawmakers are unlikely to recede simply because the states’ governors reached a handshake agreement on broad guardrails for legalizing marijuana.
“There are a lot of details that need to get resolved and different viewpoints on the details,” said New York Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, who represents Manhattan.
“Last year there were a lot of big complex issues eating up a lot of time that, I think, made resolving marijuana legislation more difficult.”
Just one state — Illinois — has passed legislation establishing recreational sales. The other nine states that allow adults to buy weed for any reason have done so through ballot referendums. The legislative process has proven much messier. Instead of a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down from voters, every single lawmaker has an opportunity to weigh in on what legislation should look like.