De Blasio calls for marijuana to be legalized in New York City

Mayor cites business opportunities, says pot convictions would be expunged

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday backed marijuana legalization in New York City, calling it a chance for economic advancement and an opportunity to bring equity to a disparate city.

“We have a chance to create a brand new industry that will lift up everyday New Yorkers,” said de Blasio at a news conference Thursday in Washington Heights. De Blasio, a self-professed progressive whose overarching goal for New York City has been fairness, has been reluctant to support legalization even as many officials around him have backed it.

His position followed the release of a city report Wednesday that recommended that all marijuana-related convictions be automatically expunged if the drug is legalized. The 71-page report was put together by a task force of officials from the New York City Police Department, the Fire Department and the city’s health department and other agencies.

The report also calls for “mandated job opportunities” for those impacted by past crimes. And it suggests a licensing structure that would prioritize small businesses over larger ones for marijuana sale and distribution. “If we just legalize marijuana and don’t deal with the underlying issues we will look back and say, what a lost opportunity,” he said


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