In 2016, with legalization a real possibility, the city may finally take a different tack. Under legislation authored by Supervisor Scott Wiener, the city has set up and seated a “legalization task force.”
A collection of cannabis industry owners, workers, lawyers, and city and school district officials, the task force’s mission is to grapple with the possibility of legal, recreational cannabis — if legalization is approved by California voters this fall.
Numerous New York City Council Members have publicly stated that they support full adult legalization and, indeed, the Council is on record in supporting full adult legalization, a position that appeared in the Council’s New York State Legislative Agenda (see page 25) this spring.
In my experience, however, even Council Members who are vocal in support of legalization have not given much thought as to how it would work in practice.
Council Member Corey Johnson has proposed legislation for the City that would create a municipal “Drug Czar’s Office” (to use the term first popularized when Nixon created an executive office in the White House to coordinate drug control policy and now used colloquially to describe the Office of National Drug Control Policy).
Such an office would be a good start in creating a progressive drug policy for the City and would be a logical place in which the City could begin preparing for legalization.
However, it seems to me that instead of waiting for enactment of legislation and then executive action, there is no obstacle to creating now a task force within the Council focused exclusively on cannabis that will begin sketching out the mechanism for implementing legalization. Engaging in that exercise is more likely than inaction to pull forward into existence, by generating public discussion, the full legalization system proposed by State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
At a minimum such a task force would prepare the Council to evaluate the degree to which the medical use-only created by the State’s Compassionate Car Act succeeds or fails in meeting the needs of patients.