Political Pressure Caused Cuomo's Pot Plan to Go Up in Smoke

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 03:54 PM

Governor Andrew Cuomo says it's "highly unlikely" that a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession in public view will pass before Albany ends its legislative session Thursday.

Cuomo announced his support of the bill at the beginning of June, with the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and all five district attorneys in the city, as well as top prosecutors from other New York counties.  

But during a press conference Tuesday, Cuomo said that Republicans — who must support the measure for it to pass the state Senate — are under "tremendous" pressure to oppose the legislation.  

"The senate got a lot of blow back," Cuomo said.  "Pardon the pun."

Two weeks ago, state Senate majority leader Dean Skelos suggested to reporters that the sticking point for senate Republicans was an issue of marijuana quantity.

The proposal would decriminalize public possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, which Skelos said would open the door to "being able to just walk around with 10 joints in each ear."

But supporters of the bill said Tuesday that the obstacle for Republicans moved to a more political one: pressure from the State Conservative Party.

Chairman Mike Long said the Conservative Party would be keeping track of any Republican who supported the measure.

"If a Republican votes for decriminalized marijuana," said Long, "they run the risk of losing our endorsement either this year or in the future."

Long made good on threats last year when he vowed to retaliate against senate Republicans who voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Long said decriminalizing marijuana would encourage illicit drug use among young people, and he added that Bloomberg's support of the bill is inconsistent with his other policies.

"You can't go around campaigning that a large sugary soda is bad for you, but it's okay to have marijuana," Long said.

Gabriel Sayegh, the state director in New York of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group, said he was surprised that the Conservative Party would be pulling away support from a bill that had so much support from law enforcement.

"This is a new rupture. I don't recall a time that we've seen this," he said.

Cuomo announced his support of the bill this month, saying the current law was confusing to police officers.  He pointed out marijuana arrests are disproportionately black and Latino, and many arrests for publicly displaying pot result when officers direct people to empty their pockets during stop-and-frisks.

Bill supporters say they are committed to passing the bill during any special session called in Albany before the end of the year, or next year.

A more limited version of the bill has been informally proposed by legislators that would have decriminalized only marijuana that's displayed at the direction of an officer during a stop and frisk. But Cuomo said he's seeking broader reform than that.  

"Sometimes it's better to try to get the full reform because a partial reform costs you something. It costs you the energy in many ways that you've developed on the issues," the governor said, "and a partial reform can suggest to people, 'Well, we've taken care of that. That's done. Mark it off your list. You don't have to worry anymore.'"

Cuomo adds that he's not confident the senate would have passed a stop-and-frisk "exception" anyway.  

Asked about how he feels about the NYPD's stop and frisk tactics, he said, "I'm going to to leave that up to Commissioner Ray Kelly and the mayor. That's an issue for local government."


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Comments [5]

Brian from Washington, D.C.

"Long said decriminalizing marijuana would encourage illicit drug use among young people, and he added that Bloomberg's support of the bill is inconsistent with his other policies."

This *may* make sense depending how we read it. The 'gateway' theory of cannabis has been thoroughly debunked by pharmacologists and anyone who has more than a 5th grader's capacity to understand how sociology and circumstance severely complicate such a simplistic notion of causality. However, I do agree that in the reasoning of many young people (<18? the article doesn't mention at what age cannabis possession becomes tolerable), decriminalized cannabis will become more attractive. Still, it's a mere issue of "when" and not "if" for the truly curious minds; everything that CAN happen WILL happen during the formative college years.

"You can't go around campaigning that a large sugary soda is bad for you, but it's okay to have marijuana," Long said. "

What? Why not? Apples and oranges, you idiot. Issues of public health in light of childhood obesity epidemic and the question of what we hand feed our children in PUBLIC schools is VASTLY different than the question of drug wars that needlessly waste public funds, clog judicial systems and penitentiaries, and super-disproportionately affect minorities.

And the hypocrisy at play here is radical, monumental, FUNDAMENTAL to so much that is Republican: in restricting free choice and free markets; in the semblance of authoritarian states qua "stop and frisk drug busts"; and more infuriating than anything else, the GOP's track record of supporting big tobacco and ALCOHOL, two drugs (yes, alcohol is definitively a DRUG)that target young people without shame and do so much more damage than you can even begin to legitimize.


Jun. 20 2012 09:35 AM
Malcolm Kyle from New York

Prohibition is not simply a 'War on Reason' it is a dire threat to the very fabric of our nation, a slow but relentless degradation (death by a zillion cuts) of all our cherished national institutions, inclusive the nightmare of new and far more deadlier substitute-concoctions (bathtub-meth, crack-cocaine, crocodile-heroin-ersatz, and synthetic marijuana) that will leave us crippled for numerous generations.

Why on earth do we go along with this farce; why are we collectively choosing to pretend that the hard lessons of alcohol prohibition - the sudden increase in organized crime, corruption, moral decay, the nightmare of poisonous-bathtub-concoctions, economic collapse, mass unemployment, and the only time a Constitutional Amendment has ever needed repealing - never happened; Why?

Imagine if we were to chop down every single tree on the planet as a response to our failure to prevent tree-climbing accidents. That's exactly what our misguided drug policy looks like. Neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them; the concept of a "Drug-Free Society" is a neurotic fantasy and Prohibition's ills are a product of this psychotic delusion.

Jun. 20 2012 06:25 AM
clive betters

there is no sanity in america. why do we want to lock up people for pot possession. it just goes to show, that the war on terror is a sham,if it were legitimate,it would not be wasting time, with idiotic drug possession side shows.

Jun. 20 2012 01:01 AM

It has occurred to me that that the racist patrons of "stop and frisk" are also the champions of measures such as "soda limitation" - marihuana prohibition they consider to be politically non-controversial.
The "crimes" resulting from the police ordering "stop and frisk" victims should not be prosecuted by any principled D.A., and should not get a "guilty" verdict vote from a single juror.

Jun. 19 2012 11:08 PM
David L from Bklyn.

Republicans are against this? The Conservative Party threatens to retaliate against senators and assembleymen who vote in favor of reducing the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana?
Is this the same conservative and republican parties that are forever bleating about getting government off our backs?

Oh that's right, I forgot. Getting government off our backs only applies to the 2nd Amendment and corporate oversight. Everything else is fair game.

Jun. 19 2012 08:59 PM

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