New York’s Democratic Party is set to announce its full backing of marijuana legalization—news that broke on the same day that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters an official state study on the impacts of cannabis legalization that he ordered in January will be released “within days.”
Wow: @NYGovCuomo says the report he ordered up on legalizing marijuana will be done “shortly” and …. Within days.
— Jimmy Vielkind (@JimmyVielkind) May 14, 2018
The New York Post first reported on Monday that the state Democratic Party intends to adopt marijuana legalization as a central part of its platform. A planning document the Post obtained for a May 23-24 meeting shows the party will formally endorse legalization, emphasizing on the page: “WANT TO HIGHLIGHT THIS.”
“Cuomo is OK with it if it’s the party agenda for approval,” a Democratic source told the Post.
Hours later, Cuomo, speaking to reporters at his Manhattan office at a press conference on other matters, said that his requested report on legalization—which is meant to cover the health, criminal justice, economic and education impacts of reform—will be completed “shortly” and “within days.”
Cuomo is the de facto head of the New York Democratic Party, and so the organization’s expected move is significant, as is the fact that it will be timed closely with the state Department of Health’s official legalization analysis.
It is unlikely that Cuomo would sign off on a party legalization endorsement to be made official just days after a state agency declares ending cannabis prohibition a public health and safety disaster, suggesting that the report may leave supporters of marijuana law reform happy.
The governor’s position on cannabis has shifted over time. He previously described marijuana as a “gateway drug” and rejected the idea that New York was out of step with legalization efforts underway across the U.S.
On Monday, he seemed to say that legalization in nearby states means New York has to adapt.
“To say well, it won’t be in New York I think is to avoid reality at that point,” Cuomo said. “The facts changed on this issue and the facts changed quickly.”
And with polling indicating strong support for reform—63 percent of New Yorkers want to end prohibition, while 32 percent support keeping the status quo, according to a recent Quinnipiac University survey—the governor’s shift isn’t a political shocker. As Marijuana Moment has previously reported, calls for cannabis reform have expanded, particularly among Democrats, as more lawmakers recognize its popularity with voters.
Also of note is the fact that actor Cynthia Nixon, who announced her plan to challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary race, has put legalization front and center on her platform.
It’s time for New York to follow the lead of 8 other states & DC and legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) April 11, 2018
“It’s time for New York to follow the lead of 8 other states & DC and legalize the recreational use of marijuana,” she tweeted last month. “For me, what it comes down to is this: we have to stop putting people of color in prison for something that white people do with impunity.”
71 percent of New York Democrats are on board with legalization, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.