NEW YORK NEEDS MARIJUANA JUSTICE NOW

Photo Courtesy of www.instagram.com/treeshurts

Photo Courtesy of www.instagram.com/treeshurts

Today is the day. New York will be deciding if they are going to pass the Marijuana Regulations and Tax Act (MRTA.) The MRTA bill not only legalizes marijuana, but it addresses the systemic injustice from the war on drugs. An ending to the prohibition of marijuana, which has long criminalized Black and Latino people and other communities of color, would have a major impact on the state and community as a whole in many ways. It has been 154 years since the abolition of slavery, yet in New York State alone people are still in jail for marijuana related crimes. How is this fair? People of color are disproportionately targeted and affected by marijuana prohibition, not just in New York, but nation-wide.. Something needs to be done about this, considering there are cannabis dispensaries popping up looking like Apple stores while people are sitting in jail for the same thing. Now is the time to make the change.

The MRTA would expunge prior cannabis-related criminal records. It’s critical that we clear the records for people who are incarcerated for non-violent, prohibitionist cannabis crimes. New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977, however more than 800,000 people have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the past 20 years. More than 80% of the people arrested in New York for marijuana charges are people of color. Marijuana arrests create criminal records which can be accessible to employers, landlords, schools and credit agencies. There are people making a living off this plant while others are being denied opportunity because of a past record with it. Past criminal records must be expunged. 

With the MRTA, the crippling impacts of marijuana criminalization in the fields of immigration, family law, housing, and employment would be addressed. A social and economic equity plan would be created. People from communities affected the most by the failed war on drugs would be prioritized to have access to licensing. A percentage of the tax revenue would be invested in rebuilding the communities affected by marijuana criminalization through the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund. This will fund job training, economic empowerment, youth development programming, and re-entry services. Legalizing marijuana would create an ample amount of job opportunities for social and economic advancement. I mean, look at Colorado, it was announced this week that they have brought in over $1 billion dollars in cannabis tax revenue. 

New York, like many states, is suffering the consequences of an opioid epidemic. Research has shown that states who have legalized marijuana have seen a 25% drop in overdose death related to opioids. The total number of arrests for drunk driving has decreased in Washington and Colorado, the first two states that legalized recreational use. In the MTRA, it is recommended that a large amount of the revenue generated from new taxes would be specific to helping with addiction and abuse. The numbers don’t lie. The research doesn’t lie. 

There are several ways to get involved with pushing the conversation and movement of cannabis legalization forward. 

Spread your awareness

Get educated

Reach out to your representatives

Sign Petitions

Lobbying

Let’s set the standard, New York. It’s time for us to step up and do the right thing. Communities of color will continue to suffer if we don’t end marijuana prohibition. It is important to get the details right, but the time is now. It is immoral for the state to lock people up and disrupt communities over a plant. Marijuana justice cannot wait any longer. We need to move forward and right the wrongs of the past. We cannot waste this opportunity.