ALBANY — Sen. Diane Savino says New York needs to look west to Nevada when putting together a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.
After recently spending several days in the state meeting with officials, the Staten Island Democrat believes Nevada should be the model for New York as it moves forward.
“I absolutely think they’ve done it right,” Savino said. “If we could cut-and-paste their program, that’s what I would do.”
Nevada combined its recreational and medical marijuana programs, allowing dispensaries to sell both.That helps both medical patients and retailers, who are not competing against each other, she says.
“It allows you to keep your medical patients getting the type of attention they need and prevents patients from going out of the medical program into the adult use,” she said.
New York currently has a medical marijuana program that Savino fears could be harmed if the state doesn’t take care when legalizing recreational pot.
She also said Nevada, because of the gaming industry, is used to being heavily regulated.
The Nevada marijuana program falls under a single agency, the state tax department, rather than multiple agencies, which she calls preferable.
With Gov. Cuomo having created a panel to develop recommendations for legislation to legalize weed for recreational use in New York, Savino suggested officials visit other states like Nevada to help inform their process.
Other states that have legalized weed like Oregon and Washington have had more problems, particularly with the impact on their medical marijuana programs.
“We have the ability to learn from the mistakes that they made,” Savino said. “We don’t have to replicate them here.”
Savino believes Cuomo will include a proposal in his state budget plan next year to legalize marijuana. Just last year he pot a “gateway drug” and pushed for a restricted medical pot program, .
Cuomo in Buffalo last week didn’t reveal his plan, saying “I expect it to be introduced next year. The when and the how, we’re not clear.”