- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2018

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threw his weight behind marijuana legalization Thursday, announcing his support on the heels of Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiling plans to legalize recreational pot across the state.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, declared his support for legal weed while touting a 71-page report issued a day earlier by the Mayor’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization, a working group he convened over the summer to prepare the nation’s most populous city for likely legalization.

“The time has come to rewrite the rules, to break the mold of the past, to repair and redeem the lives of people who are treated unjustly,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference held in Upper Manhattan.

“There are issues of justice that must be addressed, and there are issues of opportunity that must be addressed, and legalization done the right way will marry opportunity with justice,” the mayor added. “This is where we need to go.”

The task force’s report, “A Fair Approach to Marijuana,” advised legalizing the plant and establishing a robust regulatory and licensing framework, in addition to expunging the convictions of people with found guilty of low-level possession offense, among other recommendations.

Ten states have passed laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, and Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, announced earlier this week that he would push to add New York to the list in 2019.

“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” the governor said Monday.

“We have a chance to create a brand new industry that will lift up everyday New Yorkers, and we have a chance to choke off corporate America in the process and not let them get their greedy hands on this industry in this state,” Mr. de Blasio added Thursday.

Both the mayor and governor have expressed skepticism about marijuana legalization in the past, with Mr. Cuomo calling it a “gateway drug” as recently as Feb. 2017.

“It’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” the governor said at the time.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but most of the country lives in a state with laws in place permitting its use for recreational or medicinal purposes.

Nationwide, support for marijuana legalization reached a record high this year at 63 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released in April.

More recently, a Republican senator said Tuesday that President Trump told him he would sign a bill reforming federal marijuana laws.

“I just spoke with the president again,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican. “He supports this effort. He would sign this bill if it were to come before him on his desk,” Mr. Gardner told Cheddar, an internet-based news network.”

Thirty-three states have passed laws legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana, including New York in 2014.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 substances under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, meaning the plant lacks any known medical value and is prone to abuse, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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