New Yorkers Declare: No Legalization Without Social Equity

The New York State legislature is expected to look at a number of measures to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis in early 2019.

New York will seriously consider legalization. And equity has to be part of any law.

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo currently in favor of legalization, and New Jersey on track to legalize in the coming months, the problem will find a serious look in Albany starting in January.

Prior to that debate, legalization and social justice advocates gathered earlier this week to discover ways to build social equity into any eventual cannabis bill. The Marijuana: Justice, Equity, Reinvestment conference took place on December 11th and 12th.

The two-day conference, sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), featured New York State Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) and New York City Council member Delia M. Farquharson–both of whom are expected to take leading roles in the struggle for equitable legalization.

1 person who’s been through that Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title, struggle, told the gathering that it & rsquo;s going to take hard work to include equity measures. But it’s an absolutely necessary element. “It is time for the old guard to step down and allow racial equity advancement in New York,” she said.

‘Is this going to be a law that legalizes marijuana, or apologizes for legalizing it?’

Shaleen Title

In her speech, those who & ldquo; have spent hundreds of hours poring over the state marijuana legalization laws, & rdquo; and the question: & ldquo; Is this a law legalizing marijuana or apologizing for legalizing it were addressed by Title? ”

“Many an inane provision was placed upon the altar of appeasement,&rdquo. “For life after legalization goes on largely as it did. Why are we writing laws for them? ”

The conference featured a number of hard conversations. At one point, an attendee was asked to leave when he complained that the talks and panels focused too much on racial issues and not enough on cannabis legalization.

The two issues are intertwined. One of the aims of the conference was to find ways to bake social equity to the New York legalization program from the start.

One Example: The Cost of Licenses.

Many at the conference were concerned that minority entrepreneurs have the opportunity to apply for affordable cannabis licenses. Rumors abound about large companies suggesting license fees–as much as $1 million each license. That would put licenses out of reach for all but the most well-financed candidates.

It doesn&rsquo. In Massachusetts, licenses only cost $5,000. When squashing entrepreneurship and cannabis affixing the price at a speed unattainable produces a big business monopoly.

“I will recommend my colleagues do the same, & rdquo; Meeting member Crystal Peoples-Stokes told the seminar, and We must reject the opportunity to have the licenses raised to that amount.

Not Like Liquor Licenses

Title concurred. Where permits are only accessible by the wealthy, liquor permits should not be emulated by new York adult-use licenses, she said.

Title urged New Yorkers to prevent a regulatory system where “a privileged group of people are paying lip service to diversity, while fiercely defending a system that awards virtually no licenses to people of colour and which artificially inflates the value of permits to the stratosphere. ”

Advocates in New York have watched the state’s medical cannabis program in New York get hijacked by big business, and they don’t need to see use go down the same road.

“Equity in a regulated adult use market begins with dividing licenses, providing an inexpensive licensing process, offering low-interest loans, and prioritizing opportunities to people historically disenfranchised and imprisoned as a consequence of the war on drugs,” said Peoples-Stokes. “There should also be widespread outreach and education targeted on the various opportunities available in communities that are marginalized. When implemented correctly, the regulation and taxation of cannabis will further economic and social justice since it will reinvest significantly in communities devastated by incarceration. Graduation rates will rise, foster care will decrease, neighborhoods will come to life, families will flourish. ”

In New York, medical marijuana didn’t include measures aimed to boost equity or inclusion. People who didn’t have resources, especially in impacted communities were excluded by the regulations. Fifty or so people applied for licenses; only two were people of colour.

Peoples-Stokes acknowledged that mistakes were made while legalizing medical marijuana. While adult usage she vowed not to make mistakes. To that end, she’s currently working in cooperation with her colleague, state Sen. Elizabeth Krueger, who represents District 28 on the East Side of Manhattan, on amending legislation.

The bottom line according: Adult-use marijuana won’t be implemented in New York State if it is not inclusive of equity.

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