Recreational marijuana should be legalized in New York, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon said Wednesday, calling it a social justice issue and a “key front in the racist war on drugs.”
Nixon, a former star of “Sex and the City,” said New York should join nine other states in legalizing and taxing marijuana not only to decriminalize it but also to generate state revenue. Her view distinguishes her from the Democrat she’s trying to unseat, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
“There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana. But for me it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” Nixon said.
She added: “If there was more political courage coming out of Albany, we would have done this already. The simple truth is, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time. Isn’t it time we legalize it for everybody else?”
Cuomo has moved several times on the issue. He once called marijuana a “gateway drug” and even initially opposed legalization of medical marijuana. Pushed by the State Legislature, Cuomo agreed to approve a strictly controlled medical marijuana program in 2014, which has since been expanded by his administration and state lawmakers. He also proposed decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, which was rejected by Senate Republicans.
Cuomo moved further earlier this year, directing the state Health Department to study the impacts of legalizing recreational marijuana.
“On this issue there are many opinions, there are many cultural opinions, there’s a lot of division in the legislature, and what we said is, let’s get the facts and let’s make the decision on the facts,” Cuomo said at an unrelated event in Brentwood. “To pass it, you have to have consensus and I think the best way to forge consensus is on facts rather than on opinions, stereotypes, past experiences.”
The Associated Press reported that 2017 statistics compiled by the state showed blacks accounted for 48 percent of arrests in New York City for the lowest level of marijuana possession, while Latinos accounted for 38 percent, compared to 9 percent for whites.