Governor Cuomo: No Pay Increase for Legislators Until They Decriminalize Marijuana

While the discussion of marijuana policy may be noticeably absent from the current dialogue in the presidential race, one prominent Democratic Party member is not backing down on his push to reform his state’s marijuana laws.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has redoubled his efforts to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in public view after state legislators failed to act on the measure before the end of this year’s session. Amid discussions of a pay increase for legislators, Governor Cuomo told reporters this morning that, “I would not even consider, even consider a pay raise, unless the people’s business was being done in a thorough, responsible way.”

Included in his definition of “the people’s business” is the decriminalization of marijuana he had championed earlier in the year, along with an increase in New York’s minimum wage.

There have been talks about the legislature reconvening for a special session in the state after election day and before the start of next year’s session in January, but the governor made clear he would not sign off on their desired pay raise without action on these reform efforts.

“I understand they may have an interest in a pay raise. I’m interested in a people’s agenda and that’s what the session would be about,” stated Gov. Cuomo.

It is refreshing to see such a prominent sitting politician stand up for sound marijuana reform. New York’s current failed policy has cost the state around $75 million a year to arrest about 50,000 people for small amounts of marijuana, 85% of whom were people of color. This policy disproportionately targets the most vulnerable in our society and we applaud Governor Cuomo for taking a strong stance on this important issue. We can only hope other elected officials take notice and follow suit.

UPDATE: New York City Council Member for Council District 8, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has released a statement applauding the Governor’s action:

I commend New York Governor Cuomo for urging the State Legislature to adopt what he calls ‘The People’s Agenda,’ which includes an end to unjust small-quantity marijuana arrests, before they consider a potential salary hike for legislators.

I strongly support this principled act of leadership in the face of a hostile Republican State Senate which in the last session blocked legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. This inaction has led to thousands more unjust stop-and-frisk arrests of young men of color when they are told to empty their pockets during stops. Enforcement of this policy costs the city an estimated $75 million each year.

The new law would make marijuana possession merely a violation, like a traffic ticket, and not a crime that the police can arrest people for committing. Since there are currently over 50,000 annual stop-and-frisk arrests for small-time marijuana possession in NYC, this will dramatically reduce the unjust criminalization of our youth. Earlier this year, the New York City Council passed a resolution in support of this legislation, which I sponsored, and Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have voiced their support of these reforms. The Commissioner even issued a directive to officers intended to slow down the number of marijuana arrests. Still, it is essential to codify this policy change at the State level, and I thank Governor Cuomo for taking this issue so seriously. – Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito (source)

Note: This story was featured on The Colbert report last night. You can view the segment here. You can view more press coverage here.

38 thoughts

  1. This is the same guy, who while campaigning for Governor, compared medical marijuana to prostitution and said he would not sign a MMJ bill into law as Governor of New York.

    It is a nice stance to take publicly, but I am skeptical of anything he does until I see it signed into law.

  2. What a novel idea!!!!!Its about fucking time a politician showed some balls and treated lawmakers with a taste of their own medicine.

  3. “New York’s current failed policy has cost the state around $75 million a year to arrest about 50,000 people for small amounts of marijuana, 85% of whom were people of color.”

    The legislature wouldn’t clean up the squandering of millions of dollars on this cruel, racist policy, but they sure want their pay raise.

  4. In business If you lie, neglect your duties or do things that are unpopular with the public you would loose your job or end up in jail – so why not apply this principal to government officials ?

    Well done Governor Cuomo !

  5. Is he doing this to get votes? I really would love to talk to him about this. It sound real good to good to be true

  6. “failed policy has cost the state around $75 million a year to arrest about 50,000 people for small amounts of marijuana”

    basically, roughly every terror-to-society who gets caught with a very demonstrable non-terror plant costs the state about $1500,
    per arrest

    this does not likely include extended stays at our fine concrete-and-bars resorts for those Americans


    “Colorado tax enforcer tells ’60 Minutes’: Weed beat the recession in Denver”

    Medical-marijuana sales tax nets $2.2 million for Colorado this year


    We have much better things to be doing
    FIX things
    not FARK em!

  7. We all seem skeptical..Me Too!…guess, we’ll have to waite and see…I’m glad somebody said something,though…after all we elected them into office with our time, swear, and tears not to mention; what little money, we have to support their agends, and they are NOT hearing us…They are ignoring us like we are the traitors…lol…TURN, the guns on them for a change!!! MORE GOVENORS NEED TO STEP-UP TO THE PLATE,..and WE MEAN… NOW!!! got it???

  8. Great idea, we should stop a lot of other state legislators from getting a pay raise. Stop putting Americans in jail and violating their freedoms and liberties or you will no longer get any pay raises. Great idea

  9. Why on Earth is any state even thinking of giving their legislators pay raises for any reason. Everyone I know has been getting nothing but pay and benifit cuts. I’m not going to pay my “representatives” to do my will, I’m going to fire them if they don’t

  10. The $75 is just police and lower courts. The real cost to NY is probably double that. Sending kids to prison for weed brutalizes them and makes them unemployable. The criminal justice system is for people who steal and/or take your stuff and not for “victimless” crimes..

  11. In spite of what Gov Cuomo may have said in the past I commend him on his evolution on this issue. I wish more politicians would change their minds instead of continuing to stick their heads in the sand on this issue.

    Gov Cuomo – SALUTE!


  13. I don’t expect my Republican-Tea Bagger Governor, Susanna Martinez, to support legalization in her lifetime. She keeps threatening to shut down MMJ in NM.

    Anyway, good for Cuomo!

  14. Decriminalization is useful to crass politicos to slow down the legalization train. It is the least they can and should do.

  15. I thought NY was already a decrim state. I whole-heartedly commend the governor! You mean people actually like criminal or civil sanctions on what was previously legal?

  16. Hold thier paper over their head and watch them jump and squirm. Thanks Governor for kicking thier asses !

  17. They shouldn’t even be getting a salary. I don’t see volunteers elsewhere getting paid for their time.

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