Doobie brothers: Cuomo and de Blasio’s evolution on recreational marijuana

Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio looking like Cheech and Chong
Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio looking like Cheech and Chong
lev radin, a katz/Shutterstock; illustration by Kewen Chen/City & State

Doobie brothers: Cuomo and de Blasio’s evolution on recreational marijuana

They both experimented with it – and have finally come around to legalizing it.
May 16, 2018

Best frenemies Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio used to share at least one thing – they both opposed legalizing recreational marijuana, a position that put them at odds with progressives in New York and across the country. But now, they seem to have mellowed out. Both politicians have decided it’s high time to fully endorse the drug’s legalization and regulation. The mayor made his announcement just days after the governor fully backed legalization.

Cuomo’s new position represents a complete 180 from his old stance. He had long been opposed to even allowing medical marijuana, but he eventually signed legislation to legalize it on a limited basis. De Blasio’s change of heart was somewhat less pronounced, as he had promised to reduce arrests for marijuana possession in his 2013 campaign, a vow he delivered on this year, but has long opposed its legalization.

Perhaps the pair can now work on a joint effort and really delve into the weeds to write legislation.

Below are updated timelines of the two politicos’ stances and policies on marijuana.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo

June 21, 2010 – State attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo says he experimented with marijuana when he was younger.

Oct. 24, 2010 – Cuomo says he does not support allowing medical marijuana in New York, comparing it to legalizing prostitution – which he also opposes.

July 20, 2011 – In response to a question about New Jersey’s plan to legalize medicinal marijuana, Cuomo, who has now been elected governor, appears to take a more neutral stance, saying his administration doesn’t have a “final position” as it was still looking at both sides of the issue.

June 4, 2012 – Cuomo introduces legislation to decriminalize the public possession of small amounts of marijuana to close a loophole in the 1977 state law that decriminalized private possession up to 25 grams.

Jan. 9, 2013 – Cuomo calls for the decriminalization of marijuana possession in public view under 15 grams. He says the arrests “stigmatize, they criminalize” and “must end now.”

July 5, 2014 – Cuomo signs the Compassionate Care Act, legalizing medical marijuana for certain qualifying conditions.

Dec. 21, 2014 – Speaking on John Catsimatidis’ radio show, Cuomo says he does not favor legalizing marijuana, calling it a “gateway drug.”

Jan. 11, 2017 – Cuomo proposes decriminalizing marijuana possession in public as part of his executive budget.

Feb. 8, 2017 – During a press conference at a casino opening, Cuomo again calls marijuana a “gateway drug,” saying he remains “unconvinced” on legalizing its recreational use.

Nov. 11, 2017 – Cuomo adds post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use.

Jan. 16, 2018 – Cuomo proposes in his executive budget a study on the potential health and economic impacts of legalizing marijuana. He says: “Marijuana – things are happening.”

April 11, 2018 – In response to Nixon’s support for recreational marijuana legalization, Cuomo says the state is not far behind other states and points to the study he commissioned.

April 12, 2018 – Cuomo says “the facts have changed” and that since neighboring states have legalized or may soon legalize recreational marijuana, that “for all intents and purposes it’s going to be here anyway.”

May 14, 2018 – Cuomo said the state study on legalizing recreational marijuana would be released “within days.”

July 13, 2018 – The Cuomo administration releases a state study on marijuana legalization, which finds that its positive effects outweigh the negatives.

Aug. 2, 2018 – Cuomo creates a workgroup to draft legislation for a regulated, adult use program from recreational marijuana.

Dec. 17, 2018 – Cuomo announces that he supports the legalization of recreational marijuana.
 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

Nov. 10, 2014 – Early in his tenure as mayor, de Blasio directs the New York City Police Department to stop arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Jan. 7, 2015 – De Blasio says he has not smoked marijuana at Gracie Mansion, and has not smoked at all since his days at New York University.

Sept. 6, 2017 – When asked at a Democratic mayoral primary debate, de Blasio jokingly says that some days he wishes he still smoked marijuana, while adding that “the laws we have now are the right laws.”

Dec. 15, 2017 – De Blasio tells a group of reporters during a sit-down interview at Gracie Mansion that he opposes legalizing recreational marijuana, but he remains open to studying it.

Jan. 5, 2018 – On Twitter, de Blasio calls U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to enforce federal marijuana laws a “vendetta” against legalized marijuana and an attack on minority communities.

March 7, 2018 – De Blasio defends the NYPD’s enforcement of marijuana arrests after an analysis by Politico New York found racial disparities between marijuana complaints and marijuana arrests.

April 5, 2018 – De Blasio says he is “not there yet” when it comes to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, differing with his wife and political adviser Chirlane McCray, who supports legalization so long as it is “highly regulated.”

April 20, 2018 – De Blasio says he would make up his mind about legalizing marijuana by the end of the year, but that he is still “grappling with a series of issues.

May 15, 2018 – De Blasio directed the NYPD to overhaul policies relating to marijuana enforcement within 30 days to “end unnecessary arrests.

May 18, 2018 – De Blasio says he fears that legalizing recreational marijuana will lead to the “corporatization” of the industry in an interview on the “Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC.

May 21, 2018 – De Blasio says New York City must prepare for the “inevitable” legalization of recreational marijuana at the state level.

June 19, 2018 – De Blasio and New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill announce a new policy regarding marijuana, saying that the majority of people caught smoking would receive summonses rather than get arrested.

Sept. 1, 2018 – The new NYPD policy to reduce the number of marijuana related arrests takes effect

Dec. 20, 2018 – De Blasio officially endorses the legalization of recreational marijuana with a few conditions, like expunging marijuana-related criminal records and setting an age limit, and calls legalization a “once-in-a-generation opportunity

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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