Chris Alexander, policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, speaks during a press conference… [+] and rally challenging Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD’s newly announced marijuana enforcement policy on the steps of City Hall on June 20, 2018, in New York City. (Credit: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has reportedly taken another step toward legalizing marijuana in the state by appointing a team to sort out the needed legislation; advocates are praising the move, but urging lawmakers to ensure they get it right.
Governor Cuomo announced Thursday that he has appointed a panel to draft legislation to legalize marijuana in the State of New York. In doing so, Cuomo seemed to further demonstrate a willingness to weigh in on an issue that has plagued New Yorkers for decades, and which the incumbent governor has seemingly rushed to catch up on since gubernatorial primary challenger Cynthia Nixon picked up the issue earlier this year.
According to Thursday’s announcement, Cuomo hopes state legislators will be able to consider a marijuana legalization bill for New York State in the upcoming session. Such legislation will reportedly be based on the findings of a multi-agency study the governor commissioned in January, led by the state Department of Health, which found that the positive impacts of marijuana legalization outweigh the negative impacts in New York.
“As we work to implement the report’s recommendations through legislation, we must thoroughly consider all aspects of a regulated marijuana program, including its impact on public health, criminal justice and state revenue, and mitigate any potential risks associated with it,” Cuomo commented in a statement. “I thank the members of the work group for their time and expertise as we work to craft a model program.”
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The announcement follows a fairly busy news week on the New York marijuana enforcement front.
Last week, the NYPD watchdog group PROP announced its findings that, so far in 2018, a full 93% of low-level marijuana arrests have involved New York City residents of color, meaning that only 7% of arrestees citywide have been white, despite data consistently showing equal consumption rates across racial groups.
Yesterday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance also spoke to press to mark the beginning of the city’s new marijuana enforcement policy, which aims to stop prosecuting marijuana possession cases except in a number of specific and more vaguely defined scenarios.
Drug reform and human rights advocates have criticized the NYC plan since it was announced earlier this summer, arguing that carve-outs in the policy to allow the arrest and prosecution of prior offenders, parolees, and other traditionally oppressed population segments for smoking marijuana will only make racial disparities and negative community impacts worse.
See also: Mayor’s Plan Suggests NYC Still Fails To Take Marijuana Seriously