By Alan S. Chartock | May 26, 2019

For many years, Andrew Cuomo, who practically invented the concept of the double, triple, quadruple fake-out, opposed the legalization of cannabis. Nevertheless, as he tacked left in the sailboat of politics, he changed his position…or did he? If he really wanted it, we would have it. I’ve spoken to the guy over and over about it and frankly, I believe he’s full of the manure it is going to take to fertilize the stuff.

A few years back, he told me that he considers marijuana to be a gateway drug. He said — and many professionals agree — that when someone, particularly a young someone, smokes weed, the next stop will be something more dangerous like cocaine or heroin. That may well be true for some, but for hundreds of thousands of others, it is not. In my wonderful state of Massachusetts, which is making out like a bandit tax-wise with all the New Yorkers coming across the border to buy recreational cannabis, there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable rise in the number of automobile accidents due to marijuana. The problem is that there is no definitive test that could prove that assertion one way or the other.

For his part, Cuomo’s marijuana plan in the state budget found dissonance among some members of the legislature. Included in that group were some minority members of both houses who thought that the disproportionate number of people in minority communities who had been sent to jail for marijuana related offences deserved to benefit somehow from the sales end of the legalized products. Cuomo decided to punt and put the sale of cannabis products under the auspices of a commissioner who would study the problem and create regulations. Another group of more conservative State Senators had real concerns based on the fact that so many of their suburban constituents were dead set against distribution of the drug in their communities.

In fact, the more I saw of the emerging fight with the legislature, the more I thought that this was very clever Andrew saying that he was for legalization but really being the old middle of the road Democrat Andrew who was actually opposed. I have always wondered whether that method of doing business is central to his personality.

Let us return to the great Amazon debacle. From day one, deprived of his Republican majority in the State Senate, Cuomo had to teach the new Democratic majority a lesson about not listening to him. Amazon presented just such an opportunity. When the deal went south, Cuomo quite correctly pointed the finger at the Senate majority who, he said, had messed up the deal. They had. The big BUT, however, is what came next. When I asked him whether he could resurrect the Amazon deal, he very quickly said no. There was something about his response, his musical cadence if you will, that made me suspicious. If he really was upset about losing those thousands of jobs, why wasn’t he working day and night to get the deal back on track? Could it be that for some reason he really didn’t want the deal in the first place and disciplining the Democrats was more important?

If there is one thing I can tell you about Andrew it is that he has a long memory. He doesn’t forget slights or even perceived slights. He is also capable of thinking around corners. His father used to tell me that ordinary politicians couldn’t think six steps ahead. Andrew is a chip off the old block. Mario used to say that the bad politicians would say, “If you do this to me, I’ll do this to you.” The good practitioners, however, could bring the fight to the sixth power, as in, “If you do this I’ll do that and if you do that, I’ll do this” and so on. It really is fun to watch this guy.



Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].