A Machiavellian viper and the would-be savior of the Democratic Party, Andrew Cuomo also knows more about marijuana than you—especially if you are a scientist, addiction researcher or anyone involved with public health.
He ought to know something. When he was sworn in as New York governor in 2011, Cuomo inherited a veritable police state, whose public enemy number one was weed. Led by then-Commissioner Bill Bratton’s “stop-and-frisk” NYPD, police in New York state arrested more people for low-level marijuana crime per capita than any other state in the country—an arrest rate for weed double the national average, according to the ACLU.
Under NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself a former and possibly current marijuana user, the carnage has mercifully eased off, but police still bust black and brown young men for marijuana possession far more often than whites.
The easy and obvious solution to this pointless exercise would be to legalize marijuana. A majority of Americans, like the ones Andrew Cuomo will likely try to woo in primaries in three years, are pro-legalization; states Cuomo will need to win, like California and Florida, are liberalizing their drug laws.
This is the idea currently pushed in the state house by state Sen. Liza Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat. For someone with national political ambitions like Cuomo, adding legalization—a proven winner with broad support, including independents and the Democratic Party’s left wing, who Cuomo would presumably want on his side—is a no-brainer.
This week, Cuomo broke with most researchers and pushed the tired old lie that marijuana is a gateway drug—and then suggested a POLITICO reporter was on the pot for even asking about his views on recreational weed.
Here’s Politico on the scene, recounting a conversation with Andrew C.:
“I support medical marijuana, I don’t support recreational marijuana—apparently you do, which explains some of the stories you’ve been writing. Recreational marijuana I think should be separated from the workplace, do we agree on that?”
“As you know, it’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” the Democratic governor said before attending the grand opening of a new casino. “There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana.”
For the record, Cuomo supports medical marijuana in the same way as someone tweeting hashtags supports social-justice movement. New York State has some of the strictest medical-marijuana regulations in the United States. No smoked marijuana is allowed, dispensaries are few and far between, and the list of doctors who can recommend the drug to a patient, most of whom must be near death, is a literal state secret.
And now here he is with the gateway. As Politico pointed out, no less an authority than the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse—not exactly known as pro-pot—says the gateway theory is just that: a theory, unproven. NIDA notes the majority of marijuana users never move onto harder drugs, and if marijuana does act as a “gateway” drug, so do alcohol and nicotine. Other research in other countries, including a 2003 review in New Zealand, were similarly inconclusive.
Perhaps there’s something we don’t know. Perhaps Andrew Cuomo has special secret knowledge about marijuana that he’s not sharing with the public. Or maybe he’s a craven opportunist so unsure about what will help his 2020 stock that he’s unsure which morals to try on. These are all just theories.