Let’s rewind several months. The pandemic was in full swing, and the FDA had not approved any vaccines yet. Covid-29 hit New York and California hard, due in part to how many people live in those states. Early on, pundits stated that California and New York leadership were not doing a good job handling the pandemic because of it.
Then, things seemed to turn around. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo seemed to emerge as a voice of reason, in stark contrast to what then-President Donald Trump was saying. Trump’s press conferences were a departure from what Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, said we should be doing.
It was evident that Fauci didn’t want to contradict Trump, even when the then-President suggested things like citizens injecting themselves with household products to eradicate the virus.
Cuomo seemed like a contrast to all that. He appeared to be level-headed, and he pushed the same talking points that Fauci did: social distancing, mask-wearing, and locking down all but the essential businesses.
What Came Next?
There are always plenty of dangers if you live in New York City. Think of the traffic alone. In one month, about 100 speeding-related collisions occurred at Brooklyn intersections and on Brooklyn highways, and that’s just one of the five boroughs.
Adding the coronavirus seemed to be more than the city could bear. There were residents who could barely afford rent anyhow, seeing how obscenely expensive it is in the nation’s largest and most thriving city. Since many of them couldn’t go to work, they had to dip into their savings or resort to more desperate tactics.
Cuomo seemed almost like a beacon of light in the darkness that was sweeping the nation. His news conferences seemed measured and thoughtful. He didn’t engage in hyperbole. He seemed to be suggesting a common-sense, science-based approach.
Those who couldn’t work seemed to at least acknowledge that what he was saying made sense. He also directed some tough-guy talk in Trump’s direction, as is his way. Some Cuomo critics over the years have said that he’s overbearing and can resort to bullying when he doesn’t agree with someone politically.
The Fall from Grace
What a difference a year makes. All indications seemed to be that Cuomo would come out with a book talking about his pandemic leadership. He would boast about getting the numbers down, and he would also talk about some of the tactics that he had used that other governors and state officials had not seen fit to implement.
It was, essentially, a victory lap, during which time he would probably start hinting at a 20204 or maybe 2028 Presidential run. Many in his inner circle have mentioned, usually anonymously, that he has considered a White House run, and, at his age, he probably couldn’t realistically afford to wait much longer.
Then, the house of cards fell apart. Within the past couple of weeks, three women have accused Cuomo of inappropriate physical contact with them. They’ve said that he made sexually suggestive remarks to them, like asking if they had ever been with an older man. Cuomo is in his sixties, while these women are in their twenties and thirties.
Also, reports have come out that Cuomo directed his aids to fudge some of the coronavirus death numbers over the past year, particularly the nursing home death numbers. Cuomo seemed to think, and rightly so, that if the public got wind of how many seniors died in nursing homes, they’d judge his tactics harshly, especially since he crowed in his book about how well he’d handled the catastrophic events that swept the country.
What Does This Really Have to Do with Marijuana Legalization?
So, why does legal weed matter? We already know that New Jersey has recently legalized recreational marijuana, joining states such as Vermont and Massachusetts.
Cuomo opposed legal weed for years, but he knew that if he wanted his constituents to reelect him, he had to pivot on that issue, and that’s what he did. He had to move from a centrist to at least a slightly more liberal position. He also knew that the majority of New York State citizens wanted legal recreational pot, even crossing political party lines.
It appeared that 2020 might be the year that Cuomo and the State Senate would push a bill through, but then the pandemic hit, and they had more important things to consider. Those who wanted legal recreational weed so fervently would have to wait for at least another year.
This Brings Us to 2021
Now, in 2021, it seemed before Cuomo’s scandals that legal weed would be a no-brainer. The State legislature would iron out the details and ram passage of a comprehensive bill through, if for no other reason than they could immediately start taxing head shops.
This would help New York State, from Albany to Syracuse, from Rochester to Buffalo to NYC. Tax revenue would roll in, which after Covid-19’s devastating effects would be badly needed. Cuomo would sign off on it, and New York State could light up happily, while at the same time, communities of color could expect much less persecution.
All of that was before Cuomo decided that he needed to lie to make his numbers sound better and that he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Now, this embattled politician doesn’t care about legal weed. His focus is on keeping his job, as pundits and his fellow politicians on both sides of the aisle are yelling for him to resign.
He doesn’t want to. He’s a career politician, and like so many of them, he seems to love power above all else. He’d love to sweep this scandal under the rug and make it vanish.
As for you New York residents who hoped for legal weed this year, don’t get your hopes up. Cuomo’s arrogance, dishonesty, and busy hands have made it as unlikely to happen in 2021 as the pandemic did in 2022.