On Monday, Govenor Andrew Cuomo announced his support for the legalization of marijuana during a speech in which he outlined his legislative priorities for 2019.
“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana, once and for all,” Cuomo said, yet without revealing any specific details of what his legalization bill will entail.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Assemblymember Walter T. Mosley found the announcement “encouraging.”
Adams called the possible legalization long overdue and noted that this is just the beginning of the debate, which must include access for historically persecuted communities to the new economic and social opportunities the legalization will bring.
“As legislative debate begins on this issue in Albany, we must keep mindful of longstanding disparities between communities across our state in commercial entrepreneurship, criminal justice and public health,” Adams said. “We must empower disadvantaged communities, particularly communities of color, to actively participate in a newly regulated market that would eliminate racial and socioeconomic disparities. That includes expunging the records of individuals previously convicted of low-level marijuana-related crimes.”
Adams also emphasized the need for setting clear health and consumptions standards, just like recommended dosages for alcohol and warning labels for cigarettes.
“Without these kinds of advisories and protections, we risk exposing our communities to lifelong health damage, which could also lead to an increasing burden on our health care system,” said Adams. “We cannot have legalization lead down a path toward irresponsible use of marijuana that exacerbates health disparities in poor, urban communities of color.”
Mosley welcomed Cuomo’s announcement but was also quick to point out that the governor has yet to announce an actual plan, particularly regarding the communities who have been criminalized under the war on drugs.
“It is encouraging to hear Gov. Cuomo finally embrace the legalization of adult-use cannabis,” said Mosley. “But we still don’t know enough about his plan to do right by the communities most affected by cannabis prohibition. For decades, the war on drugs targeted young black and brown men. We must ensure that the criminal records that were unfairly levied are not just sealed, but expunged and that future revenue from legalization be invested in these communities. We cannot move forward with an adult-use program until we know that these injustices of the past are made right.”
Other issues Cuomo plans to make top priorities in 2019 are the end of the cash bail system; to make election day a state holiday and establish auto voter registration, codify reproductive rights; enshrine gender equality; protect LGBTQ rights; launch a NY “Green New Deal;” fund and restructure the MTA, as well as a $150 Billion Infrastructure Plan to build new airports, bridges and train stations.