Envision this scenario: A major piece of legislation is considered in Albany. There is reason to believe that the legislation would have a detrimental impact on individuals, families, and public safety. However, business interests from around the country believe that the legislation will be a money-maker, and they spend millions lobbying for it over a period of years.
Now envision this: The Democratic Party—which has enjoyed a reputation for fighting for “the little guy” and against corporations that engage in predatory behavior—supports the bill.
This scenario is not hypothetical. In fact, it is happening right now. The issue? Recreational marijuana.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo—having undergone a full flip-flop on this issue—is pushing to include recreational marijuana legalization in the New York State budget. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) support legalization. The media has spent months reporting on the supposed inevitability of legalization. And a stand-alone marijuana legalization bill (Bill S.1527-Krueger/A.1617-Peoples-Stokes) is sponsored by 14 state senators and 30 assemblymembers—all of them Democrats.
Supporters of recreational marijuana believe that legalization will help fund New York’s mammoth state government. (Other bad ideas like same-sex “marriage” and Vegas-style casinos were supposed to be windfalls for the state, too—but now that those ideas have become realities, the state’s finances remain a mess.) They also believe that legalization will remedy injustices arising from disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in minority communities. What seems much more likely is that recreational marijuana legalization would result in more marijuana use; that the economic, social, health, and public safety impacts of such use would disproportionately harm minority communities; that our state government would continue to struggle financially; and that the companies who spent millions pushing recreational marijuana legalization in Albany would laugh all the way to the bank.
Democrats who support recreational marijuana legalization should see through the slick industry messaging and unpersuasive rhetoric and reconsider their position. Nothing is inevitable until it happens, and there is still time to jump off the recreational marijuana bandwagon.