Capitol Watch: Pot 'listening sessions,' Biden backs Cuomo
By DAVID KLEPPER
Sep. 01, 2018
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced 15 so-called "listening sessions" to gather public input on proposals to legalize recreational marijuana.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden is backing Cuomo over former "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. And good-government groups are pushing back against a state environmental mailer that they say appears to boost Cuomo's campaign.
Here's a look at stories making news:
TALKING POT: Fifteen public input sessions are scheduled around the state, beginning with one Thursday in Albany. The events will conclude in mid-October.
Proposals to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana are expected to be a big issue for lawmakers when they return to Albany in January. State officials say the feedback they get from the public will help them as they work out the details of Cuomo's own proposal.
"Input from communities in every region of the state is an essential part of our approach to a regulated marijuana program," according to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat.
The meetings will be held in the evening to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate.
In July, state health officials released a 74-page report recommending the legalization of marijuana, concluding that the benefits of legalization outweigh potential risks.
Cuomo has long expressed concerns about legalization, last year calling marijuana a "gateway drug." But he has softened his stance amid pressure from legalization supporters, including Nixon.
BIDEN BOOST? Cuomo dropped a new television ad featuring the endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden on the eve of last week's debate with Nixon. Biden has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Cuomo, and the ad boosts Cuomo's argument that he's the more experienced candidate and the one best able to take on Republican President Donald Trump.
On the day of the debate at Hofstra University, Cuomo's campaign blasted the ad from screens on a truck that drove around in the parking lot.
"This is one of the most challenging times for our country," Biden says in the ad. "Andrew Cuomo is the perfect antidote."
REEF MADNESS: With the primary less than two weeks away the governor caught some heat for a mailer touting his administration's artificial reef program that critics say comes dangerously close to a campaign ad. The glossy flier, sent by the Department of Environmental Conservation, includes Cuomo's name and says that "under his leadership" the state is building new reefs off Long Island using recycled parts of the old Tappan Zee Bridge.
"We view it as a brazen use of government resources to boost the governor's image before an election," Blair Horner, director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told The New York Post.
In a statement, the state's environmental department said the mailer was an effort to raise awareness about an important conservation initiative that complied with all legal requirements.
SPORTS GAMBLING: During last week's debate, Nixon and Cuomo came down on different sides on sports betting, likely to be a big issue in the Legislature next year.
Asked whether they would support legislation to legalize and regulate wagering, Cuomo said he would "in the right places, under the right conditions."
Nixon was less equivocal.
"No. I don't support it," she said.