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Capitol Watch: Pot heats up, Cuomo pondering Iowa?

November 24, 2018

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, stands with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul during an an election night watch party hosted by the New York State Democratic Committee in New York. Democrats who gained new or expanded powers in state elections are gearing up for a left-leaning push on gun control, universal health care and legal marijuana. Meanwhile, some Republican legislatures that have cut taxes and limited union powers are adjusting to a new reality of needing to work with a Democratic governor. The midterm elections Tuesday, Nov. 6, increased Democratic relevance in state capitols that have been dominated by Republicans during the past decade. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, talk of legalizing recreational marijuana is heating up ahead of the 2019 session.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dismissed a report that he has contacted Iowa Democrats about a potential run for president. Cuomo says he plans to “stick with New York state.”

Here’s a look at stories making news:

HOT POT: Massachusetts opened its first commercial pot shops on Tuesday in the latest example of the kind of peer pressure state’s are feeling when it comes to recreational marijuana.

Already, lawmakers in Albany are drawing up proposals to legalize, regulate and tax America’s favorite illicit substance. There’s widespread support for the idea among many lawmakers, and the state health department came out in favor of legalization earlier this year. But figuring out the details — where will it be sold? How much will it be taxed? — is likely to be a challenge.

One key question: Will legalization proposals be accompanied by criminal justice bills that would wipe away old pot convictions? It’s a big priority for lawmakers such as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who argues minorities were unfairly targeted by law enforcement during decades of prohibition.

The Assembly last week held hearings on legalization in Buffalo and Binghamton, following up on similar hearings held all throughout the state.

Next month, supporters of legalization are sponsoring a two-day conference in Albany to discuss what organizers call a “blueprint for legalization rooted in racial, economic and social justice.”

“Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature must build an adult-use program that ensures equity and diversity and reinvests in the communities that were the hardest hit by marijuana enforcement,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

CUOMO AND IOWA? The Associated Press included Cuomo’s name in a roundup of potential White House contenders taking steps to set up campaigns in Iowa ahead of that state’s first-in-the-nation caucus.

The story said Des Moines-area Democrats reported having been contacted by Cuomo. The governor, who won a third term earlier this month, dismissed the report.

“I don’t know where that story came from,” he said. “I’m going to stick with New York state.”

Cuomo has long been mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency. Earlier this year he vowed to serve a full third term.

“The only caveat,” Cuomo said in response to a question about whether he would serve a full term, “is if God strikes me dead. Otherwise, I will serve four years as governor of the state of New York.”

TALKING TURKEY: Cuomo also told reporters that the Thanksgiving holiday is a useful metaphor as the country grapples with political division.

“Thanksgiving says, we’re all at the same table,” he said. “You may have a brother in law who you think is a jerk; I get it. But we’re still one family. And we have to remember that.”

UPCOMING:

Nov. 28: Assembly agriculture committee holds a hearing on spending on agricultural programs.

Dec. 12: Assembly holds hearing on employment for veterans.

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