New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, on the short list of potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates, certainly energized his progressive base of support during his State of the State before New York legislators this week. The governor didn’t shy away from potentially controversial issues, including marijuana decriminalization.
This isn’t the first time Governor Cuomo has called on New York legislators to decriminalize personal amounts of cannabis as he had previously informed legislators that he wouldn’t agree to their requested pay increase unless they fully decriminalized personal possession. Although up to 15 grams of marijuana is currently decriminalized under New York law, public possession is not, so people are getting arrested when marijuana is pulled out of their pockets after being stopped and frisked by law enforcement officers. Of course, such a policy disproportionately hurts the poor and people of color.
“We are one New York, and as one New York, will not tolerate discrimination. There is a challenge posed by the stop and frisk police policies. Roughly 50,00 arrests in New York City for marijuana possession, more than any other possession. Of those 50,000 arrests, 82% are black and Hispanic. Of the 82% that are black and Hispanic, 69% are under the age of 30 years old. These are young, predominately black and Hispanic, males. These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end and it must end now, ” Governor Cuomo stated at the 2013 New York State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.
It is refreshing to see a major politician, particularly one that may be weighting a 2016 presidential run, not shy away from common sense marijuana law reform. While fully decriminalizing 15 grams of marijuana is not the end game for marijuana law reform supporters, as ending prohibition is the ultimate goal, it is a step in the right direction and a policy that will have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in New York. Such a policy position by Governor Cuomo also hints that he will have a progressive view on cannabis law reform as a presidential candidate, as the federal government’s position towards states that have legalized medical and recreational cannabis will likely be a very hot-button issue in the 2016 presidential primaries. We will continue to hold Governor Cuomo, and all potential presidential candidates accountable, but we can only be encouraged by the New York governor thus far.
Republished with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition