A former state lawmaker has joined the chorus of supporters of legalizing the drug in New York, and he has been joined by many others.
Republican state Sen. Jim Kenney is one of the most prominent advocates for decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana, and this week he told a radio station that he’s “very strongly behind legalizing marijuana.”
He told WCBS-AM in New Haven that he has spoken with several New York City lawmakers about marijuana legalization, and the first priority of his administration is to get the state legislature to approve the legislation.
“I know a lot of people are for it, but I’m a very strong proponent of legalization,” he said.
“You can’t have one person having too much.
You need to have a balance.
You don’t have to do it for everybody, but you can have some people having too many.
And you need to balance that out.”
He said he has met with a handful of politicians in his state, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is the ranking Democrat on the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
He said she told him that marijuana legalization is “the single greatest threat to our children and grandchildren, and that we need to get it done.”
Kenney also said he had talked to his former state attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, about legalization.
Cuomo said he supports legalization, though he did not support a marijuana decriminalization bill during his tenure in the Senate.
But, he said he is open to listening to others who have a different view.
“There’s a lot that we disagree on,” Cuomo said.
“There’s lots of things that we agree on, but we have different views on a lot.”
The former lawmaker has a long history in the marijuana industry.
In 1999, he was elected to the state Assembly, where he served as chairman of the Marijuana Enforcement and Safety Committee.
In 2010, he resigned from the state senate after he was caught smoking marijuana in his car in the New York state capitol.
Kenney is also a member of the New Jersey Marijuana Caucus, a group of lawmakers who are working on legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state.
He said he thinks New Jersey is closer to decriminalizing marijuana than other states because the Garden State is in a unique position.
“If we do decriminalize, it’s going to be in the middle of a massive opioid epidemic,” Kenney said.
In 2013, Kenney became the first New Jersey politician to officially sign a letter calling for a moratorium on the legalization of marijuana.
He also has been outspoken on issues like ending child labor laws, ending the death penalty, and legalizing medical marijuana.
Kenneys latest legislation, the Marijuana Tax and Regulation Act, is currently on the Senate’s calendar.
He told WGAL in New Brunswick that he plans to introduce it next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.