In his highly anticipated speech, Williams opened with the words of Peter Tosh, repeating "Legalize it!"
"In fact, marijuana has been legal in some places for a very long time," he went on. "They tried to decriminalize it. It didn't work. It's time for bold legalization of marijuana. I shared my story a few weeks ago. When I was younger, I sold a little bud. If I was caught, I might not have been elected as an official. I might not have been able to get a job."
At a forum in Brooklyn on April 29, the Public Advocate revealed he sold small amounts of marijuana while he attended Brooklyn Technical High School in the early ’90s.
"We have to make sure we're honest about what's happening here," continued at Union Square. "There are communites that get away with this for far too long. We have to be honest about that. In Albany, I hope they're listening. I think they're trying to sweep this under the rug. But we will not let them do this. We will have full legalization of marijuana in New York State. The only way we're going to do this is if we expunge all of the records of everybody who's been in the criminal justice system associated with marijuana. Seattle did it. They went all the way back for 30 years. We have a quote-unquote progressive Democratic governor. If he's really progressive, legalize it. Gov. Cuomo, expunge the records. Here's the last part: Nobody should make money off of marijuana until the communities that have been ravaged by the overpolicing and the criminalization of it make money. No one should make money off of marijuana until black and brown communities have access to sell the thing that will be legal that they were arrested for, that they couldn't get jobs for. that they couldn't get students loans for. Are you all with me? Legalize it!"
The overriding theme of the day was inclusion, diversity, justice and equity as the New York State lawmakers debate the merits of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
Other speakers included Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (District 75, Manhattan), Drug Policy Alliance's New York State director Kassandra Frederique, Empire State NORML's legislative director Doug Greene and CannaGather's Josh Weinstein.
Throughout the Rally, Clip Payne’s 420 Funk Mob (including members of Parliament-Funkadelic), Brooklyn’s High & Mighty Brass Band, the CCB Reggae All Stars (formerly the High Times Cannabis Cup Band), rappers Cambatta and SCRIBE the Verbalist, and the East Village’s SoulCake. entertained the crowd.
The day started with a speakout ast 32 St. and Broadway followed by a march in the rain down Broadway. The shower let up as the parade reached the park at 1 pm. After the four-hour rally in a crowded Union Square, supporters headed further downtown to SOB's for the afterparty until 9 pm