By Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press
(AP) — A year ago, marijuana legalization looked like it was on a roll in the Northeast — it had already passed in three of the region’s states and was a priority for governors in three more, including the populous New York.
Now, after legislative efforts stalled and a vaping sickness stirred new concerns, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut still want to make recreational cannabis legal. And they and Pennsylvania’s governor have been comparing notes on how to do it.
“This year, let’s work with our neighbors … to coordinate a safe and fair system,” New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week. His state hosted the four Democratic governors for an October summit on the issue.
But the states have different approaches and political appetites. They are contending with new questions as both opponents and advocates of legalization point to the vaping scare to make their cases. And in an election year for many state officeholders, the politics of pot legalization look all the more complex.
Supporters remain hopeful, particularly about New Jersey, where the question is now headed to voters this fall, and New York, where Cuomo spotlighted it in his State of the State speech Wednesday.
“The fact that he has really centered it as part of his agenda for this legislative session goes to show just the tremendous amount of impact and momentum there is around legalization,” says Melissa Moore of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance.
Two-thirds of U.S. states now allow medical marijuana, and recreational use is legal in 11, including the Northeastern states of Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. (The latter two currently allow some possession of the drug but haven’t started legal sales. Shops could open this spring in Maine, while Vermont has yet to enact a system.)
Elsewhere in the Northeast, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has said she’ll renew a recreational marijuana legalization proposal this year. But state Senate and House leaders oppose it. All are Democrats.
In New Hampshire, a legalization proposal passed the state House last year but stagnated in the Senate; both have Democratic majorities. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has said he opposes legalizing recreational pot.
AP Photo Denis Farrell