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De Blasio Backs Reform: Legal Pot in a New York Minute?

PHOTO Kevin Case

Politics

De Blasio Backs Reform: Legal Pot in a New York Minute?

The mayor of America’s most iconic city announced he is backing the legalization of marijuana in New York.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced support on Wednesday for the legalization of marijuana, on the heels of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement this week that he was planning to legalize marijuana early in his new term.

The New York Times noted on Dec. 19 that de Blasio had acknowledged the recommendations of NYC officials around legalization earlier in the year, but had stopped short of outright endorsing cannabis in the past. Three days after Cuomo’s statement on legalizing marijuana, de Blasio came out with his own.

“I have been convinced that we can establish a regulatory framework that keeps our streets safe, rights the wrongs of the past and gives economic opportunity to communities hit hardest by the war on drugs,” de Blasio in a statement he released on the endorsement. “I support legalization because we’ve developed a path forward that will help make our City fairer. I look forward to working with the State as to make this a reality.”

The plan produced by the Mayor’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization earlier this year called for a strong, public health-focused regulatory framework and the empowerment of local government to prevent corporate greed, foster small businesses and meet the demands of all five boroughs various communities. Another major aspect of the recommendations is writing the wrongs of the past, especially for those 700,000 New Yorkers still living with a low-level marijuana conviction.

The Speaker of the New York City Council Corey Johnson backed de Blasio’s move in the statement.

“I have long supported the legalization of recreational marijuana, and I am looking forward to reviewing these recommendations,” said Johnson, “Although whites, blacks, and Latinos smoke marijuana at roughly the same rates, minorities have been arrested disproportionally for low-level marijuana possession.”

Like de Blasio, Johnson believes it’s time for officials in a city famous for past draconian cannabis policing to help the communities most devastated by decades of targeted enforcement.

“We have a responsibility to undo these past wrongs. As New York looks to move forward with decriminalizing marijuana, we must ensure that part of the conversation includes expunging convictions of people with low-level possession offenses,” said Johnson.

NYC’s First Lady Chirlane McCray also gave her thoughts on the plan. McCray leads the city’s efforts against problematic substance use.

“As we go down the path toward legalization of marijuana in our city and state, let us recognize that it is not without risks,” said McCray. “We must do everything we can to protect our city’s young people, and educate all New Yorkers about marijuana use. That’s why this report is so important, and I urge state lawmakers use the recommendations as a guide for their work in the months ahead.”

New York State Moves Toward Cannabis Legalization

The Drug Policy Alliance is headquartered in New York City, where they’ve been a driving force in marijuana reform. They said with support from Cuomo, de Blasio, New York’s Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and bill sponsor Senator Liz Kruger chairing the Senate Finance Committee, the question is no longer should New York legalize marijuana, but what legalization will look like.

Kassandra Frederique leads DPA’s efforts in New York as State Director.

“New York is on the cusp of ending our failed war on marijuana and taking the historic step of legalizing it for adult use.”

Frederique and DPA believe for legalization to be responsive to the landscape of harm done in New York, it must remove criminal records, implement legalization in a way that ensures equity and diversity and direct tax revenue from legal sales toward rebuilding the communities hit hardest by marijuana criminalization.

“The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act does all of these things, so New York City and the state legislature have a golden opportunity to get legalization right,” said Frederique.

TELL US, are you excited for the prospect of legal cannabis in New York City?

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