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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces Bid for Presidency – Where Does He Stand On Marijuana?  

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination last week. On paper, de Blasio’s pro-cannabis stance is one of the party’s most comprehensive, but some question whether or not his evolution from being a prohibition advocate to a supporter of full legalization over the last twelve months has been a political ploy. 

There’s no question de Blasio is pro-reform. He’s called the War on Drugs a failure, stated that marijuana convictions “have disastrous consequences” on minorities, and was critical of Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was in office. What’s up for debate is if he is genuine about legalization, which he opposed as recently as October 2017 when he said that “the laws we have now are the right laws.” at a mayoral debate.

He does have a history of reform, introducing a 2014 policy where possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana would result in a summons instead of an arrest.  The dirty detail of this plan was that police could still arrest people if they determined the individual had intent to sell. The NYPD went on to apprehend more people for cannabis possession from 2014 to 2016 than from 1994 to 1996 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Black and Hispanic New Yorkers represented 85 percent of arrests.

In response in 2018, de Blasio announced that the NYPD would “overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement.” A week later, he finally came out in support of legalization, just days after Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) reversed his own longtime anti-legalization stance.

The mayor told Bill Maher, “Broken laws sent a huge number of Americans to jail, most of them were young people of color. We’ve got an industry that now is just licking it’s chops, waiting to come in and corporatize marijuana—to do exactly what the tobacco industry did with cigarettes, to do exactly what the pharmaceutical industry did with things like Oxycontin. What we need is legalized marijuana without corporatized marijuana.”

He may have even admitted fault when he wrote, “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a historic issue right for future New Yorkers. Legal cannabis is coming to New York State. When it does, we must do all we can to make sure that happens in a way that is safe, takes the health of New York City residents into account, and above all, provides opportunity while righting historic wrongs.”

His proposal for the city would allow growing at home, commit a portion of cannabis tax revenues to rebuild the transit system, and take steps towards equality. The state would expunge records of individuals with prior cannabis convictions and create safe consumption sites for illegal drugs. 

This year the mayor supported city council initiatives to ban drug testing for city jobs and prohibit the Department of Probation from conducting drug tests for cannabis. A former marijuana smoker himself, de Blasio says what we need to hear, but will he follow through with legalization if elected president?

Bibliography

Hughes, Calvin. “Here’s Where 2020 Presidential Candidate Bill De Blasio Stands on Cannabis.” Civilized. https://www.civilized.life/articles/heres-where-2020-presidential-candidate-bill-de-blasio-stands-on-cannabis/.

Jaeger, Kyle. “Where Presidential Candidate Bill De Blasio Stands On Marijuana.” Marijuana Moment. May 20, 2019. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/where-presidential-candidate-bill-de-blasio-stands-on-marijuana/.

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