Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Squander Historic Social Justice Moment and Falter at Last Moment to Pass Cannabis Legalization for NY

Press Release June 19, 2019
Media Contact

Melissa Moore, [email protected], 646-470-2827

ALBANY, NY (June 19, 2019) — While many in the country are celebrating Juneteenth and the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery, New York communities of color were dealt a major blow when the Governor and Legislature failed to pass comprehensive cannabis reform and legalization. 
Assembly Member Peoples-Stokes and Senator Krueger and all of the bill sponsors led a heroic effort with the vigorous support of communities of color, parents, workers, farmers, public safety officials, social justice advocates and doctors. Each year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are arrested for marijuana possession, and the overwhelming majority are Black or Latinx. Discriminatory enforcement has severely harmed these communities, with arrests creating lifelong obstacles to employment and economic security and tearing families apart.
“The inability of the state legislature and Governor Cuomo to pass comprehensive marijuana legalization means that Black and Latinx individuals remain disproportionately in the crosshairs of harmful marijuana enforcement. Decriminalization alone is not enough to deal with the full impact of marijuana prohibition and just gives law enforcement discretion. Actually addressing the legacy of harm from prohibition and targeted enforcement by comprehensively legalizing and reinvesting in communities is what policymakers need to deliver on. While it is disappointing that our leaders have once again failed to prioritize racial justice in New York, we will continue to fight on behalf of comprehensive reforms,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for Drug Policy Alliance. “The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) would have addressed systemic racial inequities by authorizing avenues to expungement and ending criminalization. Given the extensive, life-changing injustices created by discriminatory and draconian enforcement policies, critical revenue generated by legal sales would have been allocated towards community reinvestment in addition to public safety and education.”
“Elections are essential to progress,” said Jawanza Williams, lead organizer for VOCAL-NY. “We will not only continue our work to pass comprehensive reform, but recalibrate our efforts to also focus on the 2020 elections.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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