NY Lawmakers Threaten To Block Legal Marijuana Unless It Redresses Disproportionate Black Prosecutions
For decades, African Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges at rates disproportionate to the rest of the population.
Lawmakers in New York want assurances that those sins will be redressed at a time when at least three Democratic presidential candidates support reparations for African Americans. New York lawmakers want minority communities to benefit if recreational marijuana becomes legal there,
Ten states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. None of them took steps to ensure that minority communities would share in the economic windfall of legalizing a potentially $3 billion industry. It’s a missed opportunity to redress years of racism and inequality.
“I haven’t seen anyone do it correctly,” said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the first Black woman to serve as Assembly majority leader.
Ensuring an economic benefit for Black communities with marijuana legalization has become a defining issue in the debate, according to the NYT. This is happening in an environment where “wealthy, white investors often reap the profits of the fledgling industry.”
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Several California cities introduced equity programs retroactively. Oakland now mandates at least half of licenses to go to people with a cannabis-related conviction who fell below an income threshold.
In Colorado, Black people are still arrested on marijuana-related charges at almost three times the rate of white people. Yet entrepreneurs said they were banned from winning licenses because of marijuana-related convictions. Just a handful of Black people have any of the thousands of cultivation or dispensary licenses.
New York lawmakers want job training programs and
“If it’s not required in the statute, then it won’t happen,” Peoples-Stokes said, according to NYT.
The market for medical marijuana is about $3.1 billion and a third of that comes from New York City alone, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
reported in a 2018 analysis.
“This is not just about dollars, it’s about justice,” Stringer said in a statement announcing the findings, The Root reported. “The prosecution of marijuana-related crimes has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic communities for far too long.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s current marijuana bill requires applicants for licenses to “already have the land, buildings
Cuomo wants the Legislature to include proposed legalization in the state budget in April but crucial lawmakers aren’t interested in rushing it through, NYT reported.
There had been an “overemphasis on social justice,” when “the economic aspect of marijuana legalization” is more critical for Black communities,
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said at a recent conference on legalizing marijuana, NYT reported.
“Not arresting people is not good enough,” said Donovan Richards, a city councilman from Queens. “Economic justice must be served.”