New York Just Took a Big Step in the Wrong Direction For Marijuana Legalization

The news: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided that he won't sign the state's current medical marijuana bill. The fickle lawmaker cautiously lent his support until it seemed like the bill may actually be approved by the state legislature this year.

Recently, he told reporters that he would sign something as long as it "makes sense." With the state Senate session ending this week, perhaps he didn't expect it to go through. The bill's momentum reached a fever pitch in the last week, and in its its race to the finish line, it has hit its biggest obstacle — one that will likely kill it for a third consecutive year.

The background: Cuomo has long been vocally opposed to any form of marijuana legalization. But the overwhelming increase in state residents and representatives who support and are tenaciously fighting for the bill forced him to make a move. In January, in order to look like he cares about medical marijuana patients, he issued an executive order for 20 hospitals in the state to carry medical marijuana.

Calling it a half-measure would be giving it too much credit. The plan was widely ridiculed. Following that goof, Cuomo signaled that he was easing up on medical marijuana. As the state watched it pass through the necessary steps on its way to reality, Cuomo inched back. Now he has flat out refused his support.

Cuomo's anti-pot stance isn't really about pot: Cuomo is not doing this because he hates veterans or sick kids or even weed itself. Like any red-blooded American, Cuomo wants to be president one day, and he has a better shot than 99.9% of us. He's less concerned about what's best for his state and more concerned about how he looks to the rest of the country.

It's not the first time he's acted to keep the perception of him centered. In fact, it's ruffling feathers within his party.



2014 poll of New York registered voters

But here's the funny thing: Politicians with presidential designs like Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stand fiercely opposed to medical marijuana in their states, against the will of the people, simply because they think that supporting it will hurt their image in the rest of the country.

Well, guess what? A majority of the country supports legalization, and those numbers are only swinging one way. Kudos to the first politician who realizes this and jumps on it, and shame on the guys living in the past.

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Abdullah Saeed

Abdullah Saeed covers drug policy, focusing on newly forming cannabis legislation in the US. He is the author of VICE's "Weediquette" column as T. Kid. His work has appeared in High Times, Huffington Post, Paper, and Village Voice, among others.

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