The state of New York has nominated two Black officials, Tremaine Wright and Chris Alexander, to lead its cannabis program and policy boards. In a press release, New York Governor Kathy Hochul noted that both Wright and Alexander "have long been involved in the fight for marijuana justice in New York."
“We applaud the nominations of Chris Alexander, who she has nominated for Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management, and former Assemblymember Tremaine Wright, who she picked for Chair of the Cannabis Control Board. They both understand the deep harm that criminalization has caused to individuals and communities – especially communities of color – across the state," the press statement reads.
"Their past work has reflected a commitment to working with people who have been directly impacted by prohibition and demonstrated a belief in evidence-based policies that center equity and justice."
Prior to this nomination, Alexander worked with the Drug Policy Alliance to build the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act. Also, he has experience working in the New York State Senate as well as the booming cannabis industry. Meanwhile, Tremaine Wright is best known for her work as the chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus. Currently, she works as the director of the Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment in the NYS Department of Financial Services.
By appointing two Black leaders to these positions, Hochul is attempting to send the message that she is serious about setting the bar for other states regarding criminal justice change and cannabis policy. As NORML reports, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their white counterparts. Within the city of New York, NORML adds that people of color accounted for 94% of marijuana-related arrests in 2020. However, Black entrepreneurs are often excluded from the growing cannabis industry. To combat these issues, the newly appointed governor is putting two changemakers in place.
“New Yorkers have been clear that cannabis is a critical criminal justice issue and that the communities that have been most impacted should have a crucial role in governing the new market and the larger regulatory institution, which historically has not been the case in other states that have legalized cannabis," a statement from Drug Policy Alliance explains.
“We look forward to the next steps of fully establishing the Office of Cannabis Management and rapidly working to implement New York’s adult-use program to fulfill its promise of being a national model for legalization with equity, reinvestment, and justice at its core.”