NY Fails to Legalize
While a step in the right direction, decriminalization falls short of legalization and the benefits that an industry rooted in racial and economic justice would provide
New York City Rally for the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, June 16, 2019.
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On January 15, 2019, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off this year’s bid for adult-use legalization by making it a legislative priority during his State of the State address. Despite his stated desire to legalize, and the mobilization of farmers, medical marijuana companies, small business owners and advocates including CEASE, cannabis legislation failed in the 2019 legislative session. The Assembly passed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which allocates 50 percent of tax revenue generated by the sale of adult-use cannabis to communities most harmed by the war on drugs, but it stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers who put politics and personal beliefs above the people they pledged to serve cost New Yorkers expanded access to cannabis and left people of color, who are arrested at nearly four times the rate of whites despite lower rates of marijuana usage, vulnerable to unequal enforcement. Instead of full legalization, legislators passed a decriminalization bill that amends and expands New York’s current decriminalization law adopted in 1977.
Once signed by Governor Cuomo, the new law will reduce marijuana possession to a ticket citation, rather than a misdemeanor criminal offense. It will also expunge the records of those convicted of minor marijuana crimes. While a step in the right direction, decriminalization falls short of legalization and the benefits that an industry rooted in racial and economic justice would provide. As coalition members, CEASE remains committed to adult-use legalization in New York. We plan to work even harder to get a fair, equitable and inclusive law passed in 2020.