Change is Coming

Coming Soon To A Building Near You, Maybe Your Own, Legal Marijuana

Updated 1 week ago David Stone
Coming Soon To A Building Near You, Maybe Your Own, Legal Marijuana

The "Cynthia Effect," which has Governor Andrew Cuomo in a scramble to appear progressive and Mayor Bill de Blasio backing off long held opposition, appears to have tilted state and local government in the direction a majority of New Yorkers want, that is, toward legalized marijuana. For some, according to Cynthia Nixon, it already is.

Having no problem with weed for whoever choses to use it but disgusted repeatedly by the stink of it in our hallway, I came around to legalization after watching Nixon explain her reasoning on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Nixon is not a smoker herself, having toked up just twice, going back to the '80s, but she explained, in an argument later confirmed as accurate in a New York Times article, that marijuana is already legal for White New Yorkers as a matter of how the law has been enforced.

Coming Soon To A Building Near You, Maybe Your Own, Legal Marijuana
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The Times found that, although use across racial demographics is roughly equal, Blacks and Hispanics are ten times more like to get arrested than Whites in New York City. Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill deny race profiling, saying the results actually reflect the volume of complaints received from neighborhoods, a claim soon blown away by the Times report.

Within two days, Governor Cuomo, previously opposed to legalization of marijuana, calling it a "gateway drug," announced that a commission he set up to study the issue would expedite its recommendations, moving up from a months in the future timeframe to "days."

"Look, my great fear, I’ve said it before," Mayor de Blasio explained on the Brian Lehrer radio show on WNYC, "is the corporatization of the marijuana industry, that you have giant corporations in the style of the tobacco companies, taking this opportunity and running with it and with the goal of trying to hook as many young people as possible on marijuana for the profit of those companies."

 But that argument's the definition of lame.

The default we live with today is that, instead of so far imaginary "giant corporations" defiling the marketplace, we have the mob and South American drug cartels doing it. How having public companies that are easy to regulate taking control is somehow worse is unfathomable. And as every New York with a normal sense of smell knows, legal enforcement has done nothing to reduce marijuana use.

The Mayor has been influenced my other factors.

"If there is a dynamic where enforcement is different neighborhood by neighborhood because of demographics, we’ve got to fix that," he told Lehrer, without conceding that there is such a dynamic.

The city must also consider "...what’s happening in surrounding states. Obviously Massachusetts has acted and if New Jersey acts, which I think is likely, there’s obviously that dynamic around us."

Can the city or the state hold firm on a policy in conflict with all it's neighbors.

It looks like the switch Cynthia Nixon flipped will soon be lighting up more joints.

Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez and Manhattan DA Cy Vance both announced they would stop prosecuting most marijuana arrests, and de Blasio is expected to announce a new city policy as early as today.

No matter how it smells, loosening of arrest guidelines can't come too soon. As The Gothamist points out, noting Cuomo's and de Blasio's positions against legalization, just a year ago, "In the meantime, another 18,000 New Yorkers, most of them Black and Latino, would be arrested for low-level possession of a plant that has been decriminalized in the state since 1977."

That's racism, no matter what mechanics are at work. There should be no place for it in New York City. Sadly there is, but maybe Nixon's got us moving a step in the right direction.

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