They’re often at odds with each other, but Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have much in common when it comes to legalizing marijuana in New York state.
Much of the agreement that Cuomo reached with the state legislature late Saturday night to permit recreational cannabis use in the Empire State mirrors suggestions that the de Blasio administration made in a report released late in 2018.
De Blasio pointed out the similarity between his administration’s plan and the one which the governor agreed upon Saturday during the mayor’s daily press briefing on Monday. While not accusing anyone of ripping off his ideas, de Blasio said the agreement “has achieved a lot of what we hoped to see.”
“I’m glad this day is finally here, it’s long overdue,” he said. “What I want to make sure is that there is a maximum focus on the communities that were the hardest hit, that bore the brunt of unfair drug laws that deserve the opportunity now to gain from this new business. I hope it doesn’t become a highly corporatized business, I hope it becomes something that it’s more localized.”
The mayor’s plan revealed in 2018, titled “A Fair Approach to Marijuana,” was created through a task force that the mayor appointed specifically on the topic of cannabis legalization. It amounted, in many respects, to a wish list from the city in helping the state build a path toward permitting the recreational sale, distribution and use of pot.
Among the items in the report which were included in the state’s legalization plan include automatic expungement criminal records for those previously convicted of marijuana possession. The state plan would allow district attorneys to completely expunge a charge from an individual’s record, or seek re-sentencing.
The state agreement also includes creating an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee a two-tiered system of marijuana use in New York: one dedicated to medical purposes, and the other for recreation. The plan includes regulation household production and an age limit of 21 — two other measures which the de Blasio Administration recommended in its 2018 report.
De Blasio’s report also sought a marijuana legalization bill that would create a new sector of small businesses, particularly empowering women and people of color. The agreed-upon bill announced March 27 would include “a social and economic equity program” that includes establishing a goal of distributing 50% of all marijuana business licenses to minority- or women-owned enterprises, as well as distressed farmers and service-disabled veterans.
There are a few wrinkles in the new plan that still need to be ironed out, de Blasio said, particularly when it comes to the zoning of where marijuana businesses could be grown in New York City. But he expressed confidence that they will be ironed out in the days and weeks to come.
“We also want to make sure there’s a much local discretion as possible on issues like siting,” de Blasio said. “That’s still up in the air, honestly. That’s going to have to be worked through in the regulatory process. But [the bill is] a huge step in the right direction.”