New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a cannabis industry fueled by small businesses if legalization efforts in the state succeed. Speaking before a Brooklyn audience last week, the mayor said that in addition to the health and safety issues involved with legal pot, he is concerned about the potential influence of big business on New Yorkers and the emerging market.
“My goal is that we avoid the corporatization of the marijuana industry,” de Blasio said.
Referring to two state legislators in the crowd, the mayor said that they and other lawmakers could create a legal cannabis industry built on small operators.
“We have a chance and these two folks and their colleagues have in their hands a chance, to do something that’s never been done before, to literally exclude corporate America and make sure this is a small business community-based industry,” de Blasio said.
He also said that a legalization plan should include social equity provisions to ensure that “the opportunity first and foremost goes to communities that are victimized and individuals who are victimized, right down to people having an opportunity to start businesses and get jobs who served time who should have never served time to begin with.”
Mayor’s Task Force Calls for Legalization
Last month, the Mayor’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization released the report “A Fair Approach to Marijuana,” suggesting a plan for the legalization of marijuana in New York. In a letter of introduction for the report, de Blasio compared cannabis to other products now controlled by corporate interests.
“We’ve seen these kinds of new industries spring up before. Legalization can follow two routes. In one, corporate Cannabis rushes in and seizes a big, new market, driven by a single motive: greed. In another, New Yorkers build their own local cannabis industry, led by small businesses and organized to benefit our whole diverse community,” de Blasio wrote.
“Tragically, we know what happens when corporations run the show,” he added.
“For decades, Big Tobacco knew its product was both deadly and addictive. But it denied, obscured, advertised, and lobbied its way into America’s homes, targeting children,” the mayor continues. “For decades, Big Oil knew its product was choking the human race on the only planet we have. Yet, it did its level best to create an economy based on fossil fuels. More recently, Big Pharma peddled opioids as a safe, non-addictive cure for pain. Now, Americans are crushed by a plague of overdose deaths. We can’t let cannabis follow that course.”
New York Governor Prioritizes Cannabis Legalization
In a speech outlining the priorities for his new term last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults a primary goal for the first 100 days of his new term. Cuomo, who was reelected in November’s midterm elections, announced his administration’s priorities for 2019 to the New York City Bar Association.
“We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma and let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo told the Manhattan meeting of attorneys that broad criminal justice reform is needed.
“We have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and well off, and one for everyone else,” Cuomo said. “And that’s going to end.”