Why a Lawsuit Reform Group Wants Changes to the Marijuana Bill

A lawsuit reform organization on Monday called for a last-minute change to the bill legalizing adult-use cannabis in New York, arguing the measure needs to include changes to the state’s Scaffold Law.

The concern is driven in large part by impaired people using marijuana and then working at a job site where injuries can occur. The Scaffold Law has long been a source of contention for business organizations seeking to lower the cost of operating in New York.

“The courts have made it clear, contributory negligence, including intoxication or impairment, is not an adequate defense against a Scaffold Law claim. As such, legislators must include reform of New York’s only-in-the-nation Scaffold Law in the final marijuana legalization bill language,” said Lawsuit Reform Alliance Executive Director Tom Stebbins. “The current standard of 100% or absolute liability for contractors and property owners, including taxpayer-funded government entities, bars judges and juries from considering the contributing actions of employees, including when they are impaired due to drug use on the job.”

State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a final deal on the measure Saturday night. The bill is expected to be voted on and pass both chambers of the Legislature this week.

Organizations like the New York State PTA and the state Sheriff’s Association are also trying to raise final opposition to the bill, raising concerns over traffic safety.

“Just as lawmakers are rightly concerned about testing for impairment to ensure traffic safety, high-risk work environments, such as construction sites, should also be considered as intoxication-testing measures are studied,” Stebbins said. “To keep job sites safe, Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature need to fix the Scaffold Law’s unjust liability standard while preserving the statute’s safety features.”

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