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De Blasio backs marijuana legalization, releases task force recommendations

Just days before, Gov. Cuomo said he wants to legalize marijuana as part of next year's legislative agenda.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, seen at NYPD headquarters

Mayor Bill de Blasio, seen at NYPD headquarters on Dec. 4, said in a letter the potential legalization of recreational marijuana is "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a historic issue right for future New Yorkers." Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

A mayoral panel commissioned to consider recreational-marijuana legalization is recommending that New York City tax sales, automatically expunge marijuana-related convictions and help "diverse participants" get into the legal pot industry, according to a report released Wednesday night.

The 71-page report, from the Mayor's Task Force on Cannabis Legalization, was made public Wednesday night by de Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie in advance of an expected Thursday news conference on the topic to be held by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray.

"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a historic issue right for future New Yorkers," de Blasio said in a letter attached to the report. "Legal cannabis is coming to New York State."

Ten states and the District of Columbia have made recreational marijuana legal in recent years, starting in 2012, with Colorado and Washington state. 

In the past, de Blasio has opposed legalizing marijuana, saying in April, "I'm not there yet," an explanation he had long offered. His wife, however, favors legalization. 

On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he wants to legalize recreational marijuana as part of next year's legislative agenda. His proposal represents an about face on the question of legalization. Last year, Cuomo called marijuana a "gateway drug" to harder substances. 

The city panel's report recommends limiting the purchase and possession of marijuana to those who are at least 21, setting restrictions similar to those for alcohol, and imposing, "to the greatest extent possible," civil rather than criminal penalties for violations of the new rules.

De Blasio said he wants a local cannabis industry because "tragically, we know what happens when corporations run the show."

The panel recommends helping "communities disproportionately affected by past criminalization have an equitable stake" in a future cannabis industry, including preferential licensing and special job opportunities. Blacks and Hispanics have long been arrested, convicted or locked up disproportionate to their use of marijuana, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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