Speaking bluntly: Cuomo and de Blasio say maybe to 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

Speaking bluntly: Cuomo and de Blasio say maybe to recreational marijuana

They both experimented with it – but neither one wants to fully legalize it yet.
May 16, 2018

Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has made one thing abundantly clear: She wants to let people legally smoke pot.

That position puts her at odds with not only Gov. Andrew Cuomo, her primary rival, but also New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, her friend and a self-described progressive. Indeed, it seems New York’s biggest political frenemies have at least one thing in common: Neither have completely warmed to legalizing recreational marijuana.

However, both pols appear to be moving closer to Nixon’s position. You don’t have to call it the “Cynthia Effect,” but Cuomo made his strongest comments yet in favor of legalizing soon after Nixon staked out her position. And, perhaps not to be outdone by Cuomo, de Blasio is now directing the New York Police Department to reform its enforcement policies.

RELATED: Does Cynthia Nixon have a path to victory?

For Cuomo, that represents a considerable shift from his old position. 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 shift is less pronounced since he had already promised to reduce arrests for marijuana possession in his 2013 campaign, a vow he delivered on. But more recently, he defended police enforcement when it came under scrutiny for racial disparities.

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 qualified 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.”

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 did smoke 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.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is an editorial assistant at City & State.