Cuomo says pot possession shouldn’t land New Yorkers in jail

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday quietly called for the decriminalization of pot possession.

Cuomo tucked the proposal on page 192 of a 383-page book outlining his legislative agenda for the year.

“The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo wrote.

He never mentioned the issue during any of his six regional State of the State addresses this week.

Cuomo has opposed legalizing recreational pot, but in 2012 unsuccessfully sought to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the substance.

His proposal this year also faces a high hurdle in the GOP-controlled state Senate.

Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) said it was a “bad idea” and a nonstarter in the Senate.

“Our kids are getting eaten up by these drugs,” said Golden, a former city cop who described pot as a gateway drug. “He (Cuomo) just wants to go so far to the left. I don’t get it.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo ended his three-day State of the State tour Wednesday with a speech in Albany that featured a renewed call for ethics reform and a proposal designed to cap the sky-high prices of prescription drugs in New York.

Despite his administration being rocked by a pay-to-play and bid-rigging scandal and the convictions of two top legislative leaders in recent years, Cuomo waited until his sixth and final speech when he was a stone’s throw from the scandal-plagued state Capitol to broach the subject to ethics.

In doing so, he revived a package of reforms he unsuccessfully pushed in December during a failed attempt for a special legislative session that would have paved the way for a legislative pay raise.

“We have to say to the people of this state that, ‘we get it,’” Cuomo said.

He again proposed constitutional amendments that would limit outside legislation for lawmakers, create a full-time Legislature, and impose term limits on state elected officials.

Cuomo also wants to require an independent advisory opinion for lawmakers on their outside income.

He called for the closure of a loophole in campaign finance law that allows businesses to give virtually unlimited amount of contributions–a loophole he has benefitted from the most.

And he wants more financial disclosure requirements for local elected officials, a campaign public financing program, and legislation to subject the Legislature to the state’s freedom of information laws.

He also proposed expanding the power of the state inspector general he controls to also cover SUNY and CUNY and creating new inspector generals to monitor the Port Authority and the state Education Department.

In addition, Cuomo would outlaw companies vying for state contracts from making campaign donations from the time the request for proposals go out. The winning bidders would be barred from giving for six months after the awarding of the contract.

Cuomo has opposed legalizing recreational pot, but in 2012 unsuccessfully sought to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the substance.

Cuomo has opposed legalizing recreational pot, but in 2012 unsuccessfully sought to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the substance.

A Senate GOP spokesman had no comment. An Assembly Democratic spokesman said Cuomo’s State of the State proposals will be reviewed.

Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said Cuomo’s ethics plan has some good elements, but will only be successful if he tries to rally public support like he did when successfully pushing for a $ 15 minimum wage.

“There’s no way you can get meaningful ethics reform passed in Albany unless you involve the public in the fight,” Horner said.

Meanwhile, Cuomo during his Albany speech said he will push a plan where the state will seek to control the price of prescription drugs.

“Some of these companies are just unconscionable where they are in a position where they can exploit the user,” Cuomo said. “Where you need the drug, sometimes to live, and they control the price and it is a monopoly.”

Cuomo’s proposal would create a new panel to set price ceilings for drugs reimbursed by the state’s Medicaid system and would impose a surcharge on drugs that exceed those ceilings in the private insurance market. Proceeds from surcharge would be distributed to insurers and used to lower insurance premiums for New Yorkers.

The proposal also calls for new regulations on pharmacy benefit managers, including requirements that they register with the state and disclose any financial incentives they receive from drug companies.

James Malatras, Cuomo’s state operations, said the administration believes the plan would give the state leverage in dealing with drug companies. He also said he believes it would pass legal muster.

But the drug industry quickly panned the plan.

“Government mandates and interventions that do nothing to help patients access their medicines are not the solution,” said Priscilla VanderVeer , deputy vice president for public affairs at the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America. “We look forward to working with the Legislature and others stakeholders across New York State to advance common-sense, proactive solutions that address the coverage and access barriers patients face every day and reduce costs throughout the whole health care system.”

Several hours before his Albany speech, Cuomo gave his penultimate regional address in Syracuse.

There, he proposed eliminating the cap on hemp farms in the state, saying it could turn into a $ 1 billion business in New York’s struggling southern tier. Currently, the state only allows for 10 hemp farms.

Cuomo, who has been warring with state lawmakers, ditched the traditional State of the State given since 1923 by governors to the state Legislature. Instead, he said he wanted to take his message directly to the people by giving six regional addresses.

Legislative leaders and all but a few of the rank-and-file members of the 213-member Legisalture skipped all six.

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, who followed Cuomo around the state this week, dubbed it the governor’s “magical media tour.”

“He’s focused more on political considerations,” Cox said. 

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