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New York Assembly

Matt Wade

Black Lawmakers to Block Legalization Without Social Justice in New York

Several Black lawmakers in New York say they will not support any legalization bill that does not provide explicit, specific provisions for reinvestment in minority communities.

Full story after the jump.

Several Black legislators in New York say that unless the cannabis legalization legislation submitted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office includes guarantees of revenue-sharing with communities most impacted by the decades of prohibition, there will be no legalization at all this year, according to a New York Times report.

The lawmakers want to see language in the state’s legalization bill that directs money to job training programs and to supporting minority entrepreneurs. Little has been done at the state level in other jurisdictions with legalized cannabis to address the racial inequalities exacerbated by prohibition.

“I haven’t seen anyone do it correctly. They thought we were going to trust that at the end of the day, these communities would be invested in. But that’s not something I want to trust. If it’s not required in the statute, then it won’t happen.” — Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, via the New York Times

While there is a broad stroke that mentions a “social and economic equity plan” in the current cannabis legalization proposal, there are no specifics. The counsel for the governor, Alphonso David, said specifics of the cannabis laws’ social justice elements would be written in after legalization was passed.

The issue has pulled several important Democratic Party lawmakers away from supporting the current cannabis legalization proposal. Even Gov. Cuomo recognizes the impasse, having gone from adamant that legalization would be passed in the first part of 2019 to being “no longer confident” that cannabis legalization would fit into this year’s budget.

Other advocates say that if there is not a clear plan for the inclusion of Black and other minority communities in the legislation, New York‘s strong underground market is far more likely to persist.

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