Disagreements remain on tax money allocation as agreement nears on legal marijuana

News 12 Staff

Originally published in News 12 Long Island

Legalizing recreational marijuana is in the spotlight in Albany this week, with the subject of where millions in taxes would go if it's approved.

Legal marijuana sales are big business right now, with an estimated $350 million in New York sales expected if the state gave the green light.

Lawmakers in Albany are nearing an agreement on individual bills that would legalize recreational marijuana, and a vote could be held as early as next week.

If that doesn't happen, the measure could end up in the state budget.

Right now, Albany insiders say there is an ongoing disagreement about where to allocate the millions in tax money.

Drug treatment experts are pushing to have it be put back into drug treatment programs, while some lawmakers want the extra money given to law enforcement so they can figure out a way to detect if someone is driving high.

"There are folks who will start smoking marijuana and won't be able to stop and will require treatment," says Dr. Jeff Reynolds, with the Family and Children's Association. "And we want to make sure we are setting aside funds to deal with those folks."

Other community advocates say the money should be used for education and social services in minority communities.

'This war on drugs has really affected Black and brown communities most," says Bryce Mack, with the group Minority Millenials. "Find which communities have really been affected and go to child services, after school programs, housing, job placement."

In February, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he'd earmark some of the tax proceeds for job placement, mental health and housing services. Previously, he wanted a large portion to go to the state's general fund, which he controls.

There are bills currently pending in both the state Assembly and state Senate.

News 12 reached out to state Sens. Kevin Thomas, Jim Gaughran, Todd Kaminsky, Anna Kaplan and John Brooks. Only Brooks responded, saying he'd vote for the legislation if certain issues were addressed and that he wants the added revenue to go toward education funding.