New York lawmakers are reportedly inching towards a deal to legalize recreational marijuana. "The Cannabis Law" would open up the Office of Cannabis Management, expand the Cannabis Control Board, introduce a 13% tax for retail sales, allow residents over the age of 21 to grow their own plants and of course, use marijuana recreationally.
Legalizing recreational marijuana would more than likely reduce the number of Black residents arrested each year for marijuana use. A 2018 report found that Black New Yorkers were arrested at an astronomically higher rate than their white counterparts.
“Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years,” the report states.
Unfortunately, this bill does not address the number of Black New Yorkers currently incarcerated for practices that are soon to be legalized in the Empire State. Moreover, the bill does not introduce any new programs that would foster cannabis entrepreneurship in the marginalized communities that have been negatively impacted by cannabis policy in the past.
New York will follow in the footsteps of New Jersey. Last year, Governor Phil Murphy legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Through state legislation, it is not illegal to use six ounces of marijuana on private property. However, it is still illegal to buy or sell marijuana in the Garden State. Under current law, New Jersey residents will not be able to walk into a dispensary and buy weed until 2022.
Much like New York, New Jersey also arrested Black residents for marijuana-related offenses at a higher rate than white residents. A 2018 report found that Black residents were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses than white residents. Moving forward, local advocates pledge to find ways to implement programs to get Black communities more involved in the cannabis industry.
“We’re ready for the new day,” New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Edmund Deveaux told WHYY.
“We are going to work with the CRC in terms of helping to establish application processes with lower bars to entry, so that people from disadvantaged communities can in fact engage with this industry, which essentially was born off of their hard work over almost a century."
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