Do New Yorkers Want Legal Pot?

In his inaugural speech in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to legalize cannabis for recreational use. We fanned out across the city on a rainy Thursday to see what New Yorkers thought about the idea. In our random survey, 61 percent favored the proposal (though many qualified their answers, saying they supported the medicinal use of marijuana more than its recreational equivalent). Many of those that approved felt that it was a way to keep lots of young people out of jail for what many perceive is a minor crime. At the same time, many New Yorkers said that the move should come with strong regulations. Of the 180 people questioned, 49, or 27 percent, said they thought Cuomo’s idea was a bad one. Some New Yorkers (about 12 percent) were ambivalent, didn’t know, or felt the issue was just too complicated. Below is a sampling of our findings.

BROOKLYN

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

“Yes. I have anxiety. I use marijuana for medical purposes. I’m also wearing a hair net over a fire hat so I don’t know if I’m a good spokesperson for that.” Taru Sofsky, 23, ice cream attendant

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“Yes, but there should be restrictions like how you need to be 21 to have alcohol. I don’t think everyone should be able to have access. It’s just better approached like that because it does affect your brain.” Bujar Gashi, 25, concierge

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Lauren Craddock

Fort Greene, Brooklyn

“I’m for it, I guess.”
“Except we’re drug dealers.”
“Yeah, you/re blowing up our spot!”
Jeff Zamaria, 39, bartender, Peter O’Connell, 37, stand up comedy producer

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I don’t really see any downside to it. I think everyone would be much happier.” Anthony Davis, 22, vehicle service attendant driver

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I’m 100% for it, because of the medical benefits. Studies show that in other states crime went down and employment went up when it was legalized.” Francis Reyes, 26, plumbing technician

— Jennifer Doherty

Brooklyn Heights & Fort Greene, Brooklyn

“I’m not necessarily for or against it. I think that people go through hard phases in life and that they should have the freedom of exploring to see what helps them. I know people who are depressed and use it—it makes them feel better. But we should take into consideration the youth who are affected by it too. If you are young and just want to have fun it’s fine, but you have to be careful with it.” Amina Begum, 24, organizer at a non-profit organization

— Giulia McDonnell

Bedford Stuyvesant

“I do not like marijuana. I think it is totally unacceptable for him to make it legal. Bad enough people are walking around looking like zombies now. They’re just going to look worse and we don’t want a zombie nation.” Estelle Smith, 44, in Marcus Garvey park

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“It should be. A person can go into a store by a pack of cigarettes and kill themselves, unfortunately. And they can sit there and go and buy a bottle of booze from a corner store and go and kill somebody. You haven’t heard anything like that happen from marijuana yet.” David O’Conner, 40

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“Legalize it in a way that you can control it. You don’t want people running around with 20 or 30 pounds of weed. If it’s going to be recreational, legalize it, and keep it to a limit. Weed is not a big deal.” Alberto Amelly, 42

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Monique LeBrun

MANHATTAN


Washington Heights

“It´s a good idea, because it would generate more money, taxes would be paid, and that could contribute to New York´s economy. Here they are buying it illegally every day, now the system will be more organized.” Isabel Khalife, 50, cashier

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I feel good with this idea because I smoke marijuana and I have been arrested multiple times for this. Now, I am going to relax.” Eduardo Jiminez, 40, food vendor

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I approve the idea actually because marijuana helps to cure people. I am not a smoker myself. I used to smoke, but I don’t smoke anymore. It helps all types and forms of diseases —- cataracts, people who have less appetite.” Sheldon Williams, 43, construction worker

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Josephina De La Fuentes

Upper West Side, Columbus Circle

“I don’t think it’s a huge issue, I think it’s fine if it’s legalized, I’m not passionate about it either way, I know a lot of people use it for different things and I think that’s great.” Anna Robbins, 24, works several part-time jobs

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I don’t have an opinion. If they wanna smoke, smoke.” Rafael Berrios, 58, doorman

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I think it doesn’t make any difference, people still use it.” Purni Alwis, 21, student

— Morgan Hines

Harlem

“People have fun doing weed. It makes you meet new people and I like the idea of smoking it legally. It’ll make a huge difference for those who light up in public.” Yacel Feroz, 18, high school student

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“Well, I agree for people to buy it legally but they better stay at home. If it’s legal it will cause I don’t know how many accidents on the streets. People getting high in bars and then taking their cars… I don’t know.” Dim Mohamed, 28, restaurant deliveryman

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Ero Partsakoulaki

BRONX

Tremont, Bronx

“I am indifferent as to whether or not weed is legalized, it does not affect me. However I do think it should be legal for those who have medical reason to use it.” Zaria Watkins, 20, student

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I think legalizing cannabis is a bad idea because it is still a discrimination against the black community. The tax will be high, minorities won’t be able to get into the cannabis business and it is another excuse for them to arrest dealers who do not have a license. It is just another justification to target African-Americans.” Alpheaus Marcus, 47, Board of Elections worker

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Olivia Eubanks

Mott Haven, Bronx

“People are going to do it anyway so let them do it, let it be legal…Everybody smoke, everybody does a puff from time to time, puff puff pass… Marijuana just makes you tired, hungry and sleepy. And it makes you feel good.” Lola Fleming, 72, retired

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Lizzie Mulvey

Kingsbridge, The Bronx

“I’m pro legalization but with caveats. Caveats being that sellers don’t become too corporate and encourage diversity, that the records of people previously convicted for marijuana be expunged, and that we stop this waste of police caveats.” Joe Pilla, 62, former bookstore attendant

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I smoke weed every fucking day. Every day! They gonna fire me for saying this? No they’re not. I smoke every day! People are doing it anyways so why not make it safe. I’ve smoked next to my mom, she gets so high just by contact, that’s how I know contact is real!” Nico Hernandez, 22, sales assistant at Kicks USA

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Sofia Quaglia

“Legalizing is probably better. The way they disproportionately arrest and charge people for it makes no sense. If it’s legal, it’ll be fair across the board. You don’t hear about many people caught in criminal situations high on cannabis.” Michael Anderson, 42, engineer

“If anything, it will make the police’s job easier. I’m personally in support of it. But I can’t stand the smell!” Jennifer Buckley, 44, store clerk

— Emma Vickers

QUEENS

Jackson Heights, Queens

“It’s a good thing. I don’t see the point in prosecuting someone for something that isn’t bad.” Elissa Myers, 27, doctoral candidate

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I lived in LA for many years and I’m up for it. A lot of people who need it [medicinally] should have access to it. As long as it’s regulated.” Jorge Gomez, 32, accounts manager

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Alice Chambers

“People buy marijuana, and those marijuana stands have to pay tax. That tax goes to the city and the city could use the tax money for something else like public transportation.” Daniel Ordonez, 19

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Wufei Yu

Sunnyside, Queens

“Legalizing it means they’ll also have it in stores, which isn’t a good idea because kids come into stores.” Carlos Miyares, 21

 

 
 
 
 
 
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— Lucas Manfield

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