Statement on 2021 Marijuana Legalization

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Statement on 2021 Marijuana Legalization from Directors of NY NORML chapters (Empire State, NYC, Long Island, Rochester, Western NY, and Hudson Valley) and members of Start SMART NY Coalition (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade):

This week, Governor Cuomo signaled marijuana legalization as a top priority for this year’s legislative session. The question is no longer should New York legalize marijuana, but what legalization will look like. Equity, justice, and reinvestment must be the driving forces of any legislation that is passed, comprehensively addressing the harms to communities wrought by the war on drugs.

This month, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), was re-introduced for the 2021-22 legislative session. The Senate version, S854, was introduced with nearly a third of senate lawmakers as co-sponsors. The Assembly companion is also pending, A1248.

The MRTA would allow adults 21 and older to legally purchase and possess small amounts of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use. The measure also includes automatic expungement of criminal convictions with other provisions to promote social equity in the industry by directing cannabis tax revenue toward communities most harmed by the drug war.

We are hopeful Governor Cuomo will take this opportunity to work with the legislature and firmly establish New York as the national model for marijuana legalization by centering community reinvestment, equity, and justice within our comprehensive plan for reform. We can do this by making our legalization effort one that benefits those who have been harmed by prohibition and focusing on creating equitable jobs and small businesses across the state as New York looks to recover from the pandemic. Given New York’s appalling history with racially-biased marijuana enforcement, we must be bold and innovative in creating justice and equity to eliminate history from repeating itself.

New York State still has an opportunity to be a leader in this industry if it passes legislation that is thoughtful and considers all the socio-economic needs of our future. It is our foundational belief that New York’s marijuana legalization must include the following core consumer-centric tenets:

  • The legal option for adults to cultivate personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences
  • Eliminate further criminalization of cannabis consumers
  • Provide access to high quality and affordable cannabis for both medical and adult-use consumers
  • Reduced barriers of entry for those seeking to participate in the legal adult-use marketplace, from day one
  • Provisions facilitating the automatic review of past criminal records and for the expungement of those records where the past behavior is no longer classified as a criminal offense
  • Provisions prohibiting employers, landlords, and schools from discriminating against individuals solely because of their cannabis use
  • Dedicated funding of social and justice initiatives through Community Reinvestment Grant fund

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