Nominations of Chris Alexander & Tremaine Wright Demonstrate a Commitment to Equity and Racial Justice in New York’s Adult Use Marijuana Program
New York, NY—September 1, 2021—In response to New York Governor Kathy Hochul today announcing the nominations of Chris Alexander for Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management and former Assembly member Tremaine Wright for Chair of the Cannabis Control Commission, Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“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.
“By moving swiftly to establish the adult use cannabis program after delays under her predecessor and nominating leaders who have long been involved in the fight for marijuana justice in New York, Governor Hochul is sending a strong signal that the landmark racial and economic justice provisions we fought so hard for in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will be taken seriously and implemented accordingly.
“We applaud the nominations of Chris Alexander, who she has nominated for Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management, and former Assembly member 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. 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.
“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.”
Chris Alexander is a former policy staffer at the Drug Policy Alliance and was deeply involved in crafting the architecture of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) to ensure it centered racial and economic justice. Alexander subsequently worked for the New York State Senate and later in the cannabis sector.
Tremaine Wright is a former New York State Assembly member who chaired the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus. She is currently the Director of the Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment in the NYS Department of Financial Services.
In 2021, DPA worked closely with advocates, communities impacted by prohibition and lawmakers to reach the finish line and see the legislature pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act with robust provisions for addressing prior harms of criminalization, groundbreaking social equity architecture, and significant community reinvestment of cannabis tax revenue. Through advocacy and mobilization, DPA redoubled its efforts and helped achieve a goal that was decades in the making: marijuana reform that puts equity, community investment and justice front and center in New York.
MRTA Earlier History
For years, DPA has been on the forefront working to reduce marijuana arrests statewide, allow medical marijuana and legalize marijuana for adult use. With its Start SMART NY campaign, DPA has worked to end marijuana prohibition in New York and create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was first introduced in the New York State Legislature in 2013, and the Drug Policy Alliance has been supporting the call for adult-use legalization and regulation since the initial conversations with the bill sponsors, Senator Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, more than 8 years ago.
In the 2019 legislative session, advocates were extremely close to passing marijuana legalization in the state budget, but when there was a lack of commitment to community reinvestment from the Governor, legislative champions Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes and Senator Krueger continued pushing for full marijuana justice or no deal. The 2019 legislative session ended without adult-use legalization, but a separate bill established expungement for the first time in New York State for low-level marijuana arrests because of relentless pressure from advocates.
The barebones pandemic budget of 2020 scrambled marijuana reform efforts, but DPA persisted by organizing with allies across multiple movements throughout the year in recognition of the way that marijuana prohibition has had devastating impacts in so many areas of people’s lives across the state.