A push to legalize marijuana in New York might stall out this yr, as black lawmakers demand the state do proper by African American communities, who’ve been disproportionately impacted by draconian drug legal guidelines.
While legalization might guarantee black and Latinx persons are now not focused for marijuana offenses, legalization also needs to present a pathway to financial fairness, lawmakers argue.
Specifically, they need any invoice legalizing hashish to assist guarantee group reinvestment and minority participation in the doubtless profitable business. As the New York Times experiences, this would come with job coaching packages and prioritizing licenses to the folks and communities hit hardest by the criminalization of marijuana.
Without such provisions, black lawmakers concern they’ll observe in the footsteps of different jurisdictions which have legalized marijuana, the place the large monetary windfall of the hashish business has evaded black communities.
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Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes told the Times she hasn’t seen any place that has legalized marijuana (ten states so far, plus Washington D.C.) “do it correctly.”
“They thought we were going to trust that at the end of the day, these communities would be invested in. But that’s not something I want to trust,” Peoples-Stokes said of the current proposed legislation. “If it’s not required in the statute, then it won’t happen.”
According to an analysis last year from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the market for medical marijuana is roughly $3.1 billion—with about a third of that coming from New York City alone.
In a statement announcing the findings, Stringer emphasized, “this is not just about dollars–it’s about justice.”
“Not only is marijuana an untapped revenue source for the City and the State, but the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic communities for far too long,” he said, adding that the new analysis “shows just how much New York City and State stand to benefit by moving toward legalization.”
“This is an opportunity to do what’s right and build up the very communities that criminalization tore down,” Stringer added.
But while decriminalizing marijuana and reclassifying past offenses helps redress a systemic wrong, communities can’t be rebuilt off those steps alone, lawmakers and policy experts argue.
“Of particular concern in New York has been the influence of wealthy medical marijuana corporations, which are overwhelmingly led by white people and may be well positioned to capitalize on the recreational industry,” the Times writes.
According to the paper, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s current marijuana bill requires applicants for licenses to “already have the land, buildings and equipment needed for their businesses,” shutting out people of color who are less likely to have the capital necessary to meet those requirements.
“You can’t talk to me about justice and not talk to me about economics,” Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute and a chief strategist for We Rise to Legalize told the Times. “They are inextricably joined.”
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