New York state Democratic Party embraces cannabis legalization

Posted on May 25th, 2018 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

New YorkThings are moving fast in the Empire State, with cannabis legalization proposals striding toward mainstream acceptance—spurred by a growing sense of injustice over the racial disparities in enforcement. In what could be a watershed moment, the state Democratic Party just adopted a resolution to embrace legalization. The party elite seem to be feeling the pressure from below in a gubernatorial election year.

Meeting in the Long Island suburb town of Hempstead on May 23, the executive committee of the New York state Democratic Party passed a resolution calling for legalization of cannabis, emphasizing that millions could be added to state coffers if it were taxed like alcohol. The resolution called for an excise tax rate of 13%—the same as for booze.

"The New York State Democratic Committee supports the legalization of marijuana which should be regulated and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol," read the resolution adopted by delegates at the convention, according to Marijuana Moment website. The resolution called legalization "an important social justice issue." Echoing an increasingly popular sentiment in the state, it added: "Millions of peaceful Americans have been arrested, imprisoned, fined, or otherwise needlessly criminalized and stigmatized, potentially for life, because of their use of marijuana."

“The Democratic party is excited about making this a platform resolution,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky told CBS New York on the scene. He of course added the requisite words of caution: "As a lawmaker, we have to make sure that it’s going to be rolled out responsibly, that our roads are going to be safe and that our children are going to be safe."

With vertiginous speed, cannabis has become an issue at the forefront of New York state politics ahead of November's race for the governor's office. The party delegates were clearly responding, at least in large part, to the insurgent candidacy of TV star Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the left. She has made legalization a key campaign plank. The Cynthia for NY website is plugging a petition that reads: "It's time for New York to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. In a blue state like New York, marijuana shouldn't even be an issue. 'Decriminalizing' isn't enough—we also have to correct past injustices, by expunging prior convictions disproportionately applied to people of color."

At the Hempstead convention, Cuomo and Nixon faced off in a procedural fight for the party's support. Cuomo emerged victorious, but the rhetoric in his acceptance speech reflected the threat of Nixon's populist fire. “New York is the alternative state to Trump’s America,” he proclaimed, according to the Albany Times Union. He also dissed Republican challenger Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, as "mini-Trump."

A longtime opponent of legalization, Cuomo also recently announced that he'd formed a panel to study the question. But this contest with Nixon will play itself out again in the September state primary—and then again in the November election if (as seems likely) Cuomo gets the nomination and Nixon bolts the Democrats to challenge him on the Working Families Party ticket.

Another big development this week was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's surprise announcement that he is directing NYPD officers to stop making arrests for public toking. The Daily News reported that the policy change will be part of a 30-day review to address the glaring racial disparity in marijuana arrests in Gotham City. More audaciously still, de Blasio says he'll also call a task force to explore how the city could respond to full legalization, hashing out issues such as how to deal with public smokers, and what kind of zoning will be needed for dispensaries.

And while even after de Blasio's announcement public tokers can still be ticketed and cited, the Daily News also reported that some New Yorkers are putting the new policy to the test. An amusing video was posted to Twitter showing a smiling and courageous youth lighting up on a subway train, apparently passing through Harlem, and passing the joint to his fellow passengers—who happily accept, amid giggles. "I got the train lit!" the youth exults. "Only in New York! Only in Harlem!"

Cross-post to Cannabis Now.

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