New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced his support for legalizing marijuana in his state, the latest evidence of the progressive left’s growing influence on moderate Democrats about the issue.
The announcement from Cuomo, made during a speech in which he outlined his agenda for his first 100 days of his third term leading the Empire State, comes months after a bruising primary challenge on his left from activist and actress Cynthia Nixon, who supported a number of progressive priorities, including marijuana legalization.
In his speech, Cuomo mentioned legalizing marijuana as part of an effort to “advance our justice agenda and particularly address the forms of injustice that for too long have unfairly targeted the African-American and minority communities.”
“We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma and let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo’s position on the issue has evolved since 2012, when he proposed that state legislators move to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana that are in public view, saying the aim was to avoid unnecessary misdemeanor charges against thousands of New Yorkers.
Currently, 10 states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use.
A study commissioned by Cuomo in January to examine the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana found that greater government oversight would enable the state to enact health and safety standards and “reduce racial disparities in criminalization and incarceration rates.” Progressives have also pointed to increased tax revenue as a reason to legalize pot.
Relaxing marijuana laws has already emerged as a key issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary fight, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill in June to decriminalize and regulate the drug on a federal level. Cuomo himself was eyed as a potential 2020 candidate, but he put the speculation to bed in November, saying in an interview that he was ruling it out.