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New York mayor urges clean slates for offenders and economic justice in weed legalization

Posted at 2:25 PM, Dec 20, 2018

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed his support Thursday for a marijuana legalization plan that emphasizes small businesses and the expunging of former possession convictions.

"Legalization, done the right way, will marry opportunity with justice," de Blasio said at a press conference announcing a report published Thursday by his Task Force on Cannabis Legalization.

"We have a chance to create a brand-new industry that will lift up everyday New Yorkers," he said, "And we have a chance to choke off corporate America in the process and not let them get their greedy hands on this industry here in this state."

The report, "A Fair Approach to Marijuana," is the product of five months of work by the task force, which was convened to navigate the city's approach to New York state's expected legalization of marijuana .

Comparing corporate cannabis concerns to "Big Tobacco," "Big Oil" and "Big Pharma," de Blasio said lawmakers should legalize marijuana in such a way as to emphasize small businesses and benefit those affected by decades of criminalization.

"I say, brothers and sisters, we can't let big pot in the door to begin with," the mayor said. "The majority of licenses to sell and produce legal weed must go to those whose lives were damaged by illegal weed."

The report calls for the city to "right historic wrongs," recommending the automatic expunging of certain marijuana-related convictions, subject to the review of the relevant district attorney's office.

"In the new law that will be written, let's automatically expunge past convictions for low-level marijuana crimes," the mayor said.

The city's report comes three days after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support for legalization while outlining his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term.

In a speech Monday, Cuomo said legalization was part of an effort to "advance our justice agenda and particularly address the forms of injustice that for too long have unfairly targeted the African-American and minority communities."

"We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma," he said, "and let's legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all."