A Quinnipiac poll released in early May shows that 63 percent of New York state voters support legal marijuana, while only 32 percent oppose it. Republicans in the state oppose legal marijuana at a ratio of 56 to 40 percent, and Democrats support legalization at a ratio of 71 to 24 percent. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried New York with 59 percent of the vote, and Democrats control New York’s state legislature.
Governor Supports Decriminalization
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who is currently running for reelection, has stated his opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana, although he supports decriminalization. He is facing a challenge from Cynthia Nixon, who supports legalization. Currently, Cuomo leads Nixon in the polls by a large margin. He has said that marijuana is a gateway drug.
This view is disputed by New York’s voters. Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, says that New Yorkers “don’t see marijuana as a gateway to stronger drugs.” The poll results show that most New Yorkers—54 percent—do not think legal marijuana would have much of an effect on opioid use.
Nixon and Cuomo agree that people of color have borne a disproportionate share of arrests and incarceration for marijuana. Nixon has said that “eighty percent of the New Yorkers who are arrested for marijuana are black or Latino, despite the fact that whites and people of color use marijuana at roughly the same rates.” The Quinnipiac poll results show that voters agree with the candidates, with 62 percent saying that a black marijuana user is more likely to be arrested than a white one.
These opinions are supported by the facts. New York City’s famous stop-and-frisk program, for example, resulted in an increase of marijuana arrests in 2016, with less than 10 percent of those arrested being white. The New York Police Department’s data back up Nixon’s claim that 80 percent of those arrested in the city for drug possession were black or Latino.
Younger voters are much more likely to support legalization. Among those 18 to 34 years old, 77 percent approve of legalization. Among those age 35 to 49, 68 percent are in support. Only among those 65 and older is support in the minority, at 46 percent. Fifty percent of seniors, however, support legalization if it leads to greater tax revenue.
New York’s U.S. senators, both Democrats, have also staked out positions on marijuana. Charles Shumer supports federal decriminalization, and Kirsten Gillibrand has announced that she plans to support a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level.
What do you think: Will Cuomo decriminalize? Does Nixon have a chance? Leave a comment below.