In March last year, New York became the 15th state to legalize pot for recreational use. This came after several stymied attempts triggered by disagreements on the allocation of tax revenues. Now that the law is set, it seems like New York is getting it right with cannabis legalization. The Empire State has plans to allocate a whopping 40% of tax revenues to enforcing economic and racial equity.
New York plans to reinvest millions of marijuana tax revenues into communities that were most ravaged by the failed war on drugs. This makes New York one of the few states to prioritize “righting the wrongs” of the past over economic and other gains that will be accrued from legalizing cannabis.
Despite similar use rates, blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana related crimes. Apart from having to pay fines or serve a jail term, such arrests limit one’s social and economic potential in many ways. Housing, education, and employment opportunities are all hinged on having a clean criminal record. Therefore, in the prohibition era, being found in possession of a single joint could completely jeopardize one’s socio-economic prospects. And this has been the story of many blacks and Latinos. Communities who growth trajectory has been destabilized by the biased anti-drug laws. Worse still, due to the existing economic disparities and high costs associated with setting up cannabis businesses, such minorities are barred from accessing the legal industry.
Let’s take a look at some of the exciting things in the New York cannabis bill:
- 40% of the generated tax revenues will be channeled towards rebuilding the communities that were unfairly targeted by the war on drugs
- Those with nonviolent marijuana-related criminal records will have their records expunged.
- The law will help those who participated in the illicit market to participate in the legal cannabis market
- Adults (above 21 years) are allowed to possess three ounces of weed or 24 grams of cannabis extract in concentrated forms. They will also be able to grow up to six plants in private residences
- New Yorkers will be free to smoke cannabis in all areas where tobacco smoking is allowed, this includes sidewalks in the city and lounges
- New Yorkers will be able to have cannabis delivered to their residences
Medical cannabis patients in New York will also benefit from this new legislation. They will now be able to smoke cannabis flower, something that was previously not allowed. They will also be able to purchase a 60 day supply of cannabis meds, an expansion from the 30 day cap. Lastly, the state has also reviewed and increased the number of medical conditions that qualify for medical cannabis treatment.
New York’s cannabis bill which was sponsored by the Democratic majority leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, seems to finally gotten it right by prioritizing social justice and equity. Speaking in the lower chamber, Crystal had this to say, “Equity is not a second thought, it’s the first one, and it needs to be, because the people who paid the price for this war on drugs have lost so much.”