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Advocates Call On New York Legislators To Enact Cannabis Reform

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Editorial Note: This is a press release from our friends at Start Smart NY and the Drug Policy Alliance.

(NEW YORK, NY) – With just days left in the New York State legislative session and amid resumed negotiations, Start SMART NY – a coalition comprised of organizations and advocates dedicated to criminal justice reform, civil rights, public health, and community-based organizations who support marijuana legalization with robust social justice and equity provisions – rallied out front of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office urging lawmakers to enact the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.1527B/A.1617B), known as the MRTA immediately.

Sponsored by Senator Liz Kruger and Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, the amended MRTA ends prohibition, which has long criminalized Black and Latino people and other communities of color; clears prior cannabis-related criminal records; addresses additional devastating impacts of marijuana criminalization in the fields of immigration, family law, housing, and employment; and includes a social and economic equity plan that prioritizes licenses for people from communities most affected by criminalization.

If enacted, it will be the first law of its kind to devote such substantial permanent funding for community reinvestment.

The bill also directs tax revenue from legal marijuana sales to be reinvested in communities most harmed by the war on drugs through the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will fund job training, economic empowerment, youth development programming, and re-entry services. Additional revenue will be used to support public schools in the state plus drug treatment programs and evidence-based public education campaigns. If enacted, it will be the first law of its kind to devote such substantial permanent funding for community reinvestment

Passing the MRTA is essential to ensure that the communities most harmed by the war on drugs get access to an industry they helped build. Since its introduction in America, Black and Latinx culture has driven cannabis consumption from the margins of popular culture to the mainstream,” said Imani Dawson, Executive Director, Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium and Expo (C.E.A.S.E.) “Those communities are at the forefront of the social justice and equity movements powering much of the local and national conversations about legalization. We must ensure that the groups responsible for popularizing and sustaining cannabis culture also get a financial stake in the multi-billion dollar legalized industry. The MRTA designates day one funding to secure their participation and the restoration of New York communities ravaged by the drug war.”

“New York has one of the biggest unlicensed or “legacy” markets in the United States currently generating $3.8 billion per year in untaxed revenue. As we move closer to a society where cannabis is legal, we must be mindful to build pathways to the tax-paying regulated market rather than re-introduce legacy market members into the criminal justice system. The MRTA takes this element into account allowing for a space to build new opportunities, sustainable businesses and safer communities,” said Saki Fenderson, Co-Founder, Tainted Love Bk.

Read the rest of the article on Heavy Vermont.

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