Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday for the first time said he backs the legalization of recreational marijuana — but insisted he won’t allow it to be dominated by corporate interests.
Hizzoner invoked his father’s own spiral of addiction to tobacco and alcohol — which the mayor noted are different than pot — in explaining his cautious approach to legalization.
“Because I saw someone victimized by the tobacco industry, I can tell you over my dead body will big corporate marijuana do that to New Yorkers,” the mayor said at an upper Manhattan press conference where he released a report with recommendations for how weed should be legalized by the state.
“You can’t take addiction lightly when you’ve seen it,” he added. “You just can’t.”
The mayor drilled home the point that he would work to prevent the budding industry from becoming a cash cow for corporate America, and insisted that minorities who suffered the most from enforcement must reap the greatest rewards.
De Blasio said he hasn’t smoked pot himself since college.
But the mayor’s role in legalization of marijuana is minimal because it’s an issue that’s governed by state law.
His advocacy comes just days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants the state Legislature to make recreational pot legal in New York in 2019.
Among the recommendations in the report issued by a task force that de Blasio convened in July are to expunge past convictions for marijuana-related offenses, set the minimum age at 21 and prohibit smoking pot in public.
The review also sought to ensure that black and Hispanic communities get a significant leg up in the marijuana industry rather than allow sales to be monopolized by giant corporations.
City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez hailed the moment as a significant break from the disparate enforcement of marijuana-related offenses over the years — which mostly targeted black and Hispanic smokers for arrests or summonses.
“Marijuana has been practically legal for the upper class,” Rodriguez said. “Unless you’re black and Latino and poor, you will never understand the importance of this day today.”
The mayor’s evolution on legalization — something he formerly opposed — came in response to assurances from cities and states where it’s already become legal that the health and safety impacts were limited.
His wife, Chirlane McCray, who has expressed support for legalization, also influenced his opinion, aides said.
In January, de Blasio had told WNYC radio he was “skeptical” about legalization, but added that he was willing to study the matter.
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