A group of New York state lawmakers and community advocates reintroduced a bill on Monday in an effort to legalization recreational marijuana.
State Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, along with a collection of cannabis supporters and social justice activists announced they will support the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
The bill would create a legal market for cannabis sales in the Empire State and tax and regulate it like alcohol.
“Marijuana prohibition is a failed and outdated policy that has done tremendous damage to too many of our communities, said Sen. Krueger. “Allowing adult personal use, with appropriate regulation and taxation, will end the heavily racialized enforcement that disproportionately impacts African American and Latino New Yorkers, locking them out of jobs, housing, and education, and feeding the prison pipeline. MRTA is the kind of smart, responsible, 21st century policy that our communities desperately need,” she added.
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The state’s legislators end their session on June 21, which gives lawmakers nine days to push through the bill. Gov. Andrew Cuomo , a Democrat, has voiced concerns about legalization of smokeable forms of cannabis. The New York medical marijuana program does not allow smoked or edible products.
According to experts, New Yorkers spend more than $3 billion per year on black-market marijuana. Regulating the industry would provide a significant tax revenue stream for the state.
An official study by the NYC comptroller in 2013 estimated potential tax revenue for a legal marijuana market in NYC alone would be more than $400 million, acknowledging that the actual revenue could be much higher.
“I introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act because it’s time we reform our state’s marijuana policy to end biased marijuana arrests and drive responsible economic development across the state – both of which are especially needed in Buffalo,” said Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes. “Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years. Prohibition is an approach that has never worked and has caused significantly more harm than good to our communities and to our families—we can do something different, and it’s time that we do.”
The Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-cannabis group who is part of Monday’s event, said the reworked bill also includes racial justice and small business-friendly amendments, including:
- Creating a micro-license structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, that allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
- Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
- Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.
Efforts to pass similar legislation in New York has failed in previous attempts.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have now ended marijuana prohibition.