On Wednesday, February 13, the Progressive Caucus rallied with the Black, Latino/a, and Asian Caucus and the Drug Policy Alliance to mark the introduction of legislation and resolutions to voice their support for legalization, reduce the collateral consequences from marijuana criminalization, and promote policies that prioritize the inclusion of communities most harmed by marijuana criminalization. The City still penalizes New Yorkers for usage and possession of marijuana – jeopardizing New Yorkers’ access to housing, child custody, and employment. The package addresses some of these collateral consequences of marijuana prohibition, and is supported by Legal Aid, Bronx Defender Services, Citizen Action of New York, and Communities United for Police Reform.
This package and the sustained advocacy by the Progressive Caucus is especially important as legalization is being discussed and negotiated on the state level, as any plan to legalize marijuana in New York must include the sealing of records, create a diverse and inclusive industry, and use revenue to reinvest in communities that have been impacted by prohibition.
The marijuana legislation includes the following bills and resolutions:
- Council Member Richards – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to enhanced reporting on the child welfare system.
- Council Member Reynoso – A Local Law to require Administration for Child Services to report on how many child welfare investigations are initiated as a result of Health+Hospitals drug screenings.
- Council Member Williams – A Local Law to prohibit drug testing for marijuana as part of the job application process, except for positions involving the use of heavy machinery or driving.
- Council Member Richards – A Local Law to to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to drug testing not permitted by the department of probation
- Speaker Johnson – Resolution on local control over certain issues that apply to NYC/localities differently from upstate, including home delivery, home cultivation, and local Inspection of licensed locations.
- Council Member Levin – Resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and the Governor to sign such legislation into law, which would legalize, regulate, and tax the sale of marijuana in New York State.
- Council Members Kallos + Ampry-Samuel – Resolution to ban vertical integration and promote the growth of small business in the recreational marijuana industry
- Council Member Menchaca – Resolution to call on the State to allow localities to establish any prohibition on public consumption of marijuana and any related civil penalties
- Council Member Miller – Resolution calling on Congress to pass and the President to sign S.1689, known as the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017,” which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marijuana, and for other purposes
- Council Member Moya – Resolution calling on the State to reclassify THC from a controlled substance to the same thing as flower marijuana
- Council Members Williams + Levin – Resolution calling on the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the New York State Office of Court Administration, and New York City District Attorneys to expunge the records of all city misdemeanor marijuana convictions
- Council Member Lander – Resolution calling upon the New York City Administration for Children’s Services to implement a policy finding that a person’s mere possession or use of marijuana does not by itself create an imminent risk of harm to a child, warranting the child’s removal
- Council Member Williams – Resolution calling on the New York City Housing Authority Council Member NYCHA to add unlawful possession of marijuana and criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth and fifth degrees to its list of “overlooked offenses,” and stop considering these offenses as grounds for termination of tenancy
- Council Member Rivera – Resolution calling on the State to create clear and fair regulations for hospitals on drug testing those who are pregnant or giving birth, including informing patients of their rights before any discussion of drug use or drug testing
- Council Member Miller – Resolution calling on the Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign a bill that would remedy disparate burdens placed on communities of color in the enforcement of marijuana prohibition, prevent future similar disparities, and encourage participation in the legal marijuana industry by communities of color
- Council Member Levin – Resolution calling on the State to pass marijuana equity legislation that includes explicit equity provisions requiring applicants for licenses and permits to be required to demonstrate how they will support hiring of people with prior convictions. Calling on the State to make people with prior marijuana-related convictions eligible for cannabis licenses, as issued by the relevant State agencies
- Council Member Cumbo – Resolution calling on the State to grant New York City agencies the authority to regulate local licensing of recreational marijuana in the City
“New York has been at the forefront of so many progressive issues, from women’s rights to LGBT rights to workers’ rights, but as I’ve been saying for some time now, we have fallen behind on the legalization of marijuana. Albany has to act now. As we begin to regulate marijuana instead of criminalizing it, we need to ensure that a part of the revenue and business opportunities that will follow go back to the communities that suffered the most from unfair enforcement. I am calling upon the state legislature to give the City Council and city agencies the authority to decide where one can use marijuana, where to buy it, and where to grow it. I applaud the Progressive Caucus for their efforts to bring about social and economic justice as it relates to the legalization of marijuana,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“Plain and simple, we communities of color are entitled to our fair share of the cannabis pie. Here in the City of New York, particularly communities of color, whom have been hit hardest by the War on Drugs, must now be the beneficiaries of the soon-to-be booming cannabis industry. While New York State engages in a transformative cannabis legalization expansion, we want to underscore the importance of allowing local control of cannabis licensing, with equitable distribution of opportunities for M/WBEs,” said Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo.
“It’s not often a policy idea presents itself that in one fell swoop can undo decades of economic, racial, and social injustices all at once. But that’s exactly what the State of New York can achieve by legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana,”said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Vice-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “We know that marijuana consumption is safe and provides several medical benefits. We also know that its criminalization actually criminalized communities of color and racialized the drug war. That is why the only morally justifiable way of legalizing marijuana must come with a plan for funneling economic gains directly into these affected communities and expunging related criminal records. I’m proud to stand with so many of my colleagues in the City Council to show State Legislators the way forward.”
“When five former city probation commissioners and Judge Lippmann agree that testing people on parole and probation for marijuana serves no public safety purpose, it’s time to change the system,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, member of the Progressive Caucus. “While we’re working to decrease the population on Rikers, we should be finding reasons to keep people out of the system, not more hurdles to trip them up and send them back. With cannabis at the tipping point of legalization, the State and City must be focused on policies that seek to put an end to mass incarceration and the overenforcement of communities of color. The passage of my bill to limit probation from testing for marijuana would help close one trap door that too many people have fallen into while working to lead a better life for themselves and their families. Additionally, Int. 1161 would require the Administration of Children’s Services to shine a light on the reasons the agency makes a determination to remove children from their parent or guardian. Alleged marijuana use should never be the determining factor in traumatizing a child or their guardian and we look forward to seeing more information around this issue.”
“The prohibition of marijuana has subjected low-income communities of color to targeted and disproportionate policing and enforcement, the effects of which have been devastating for individuals and entire communities,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, member of the Progressive Caucus. “Today I introduced a bill that would require Administration of Child Services to report on how many child welfare investigations are initiated as a result of Health and Hospitals drug screenings. This information is critical to expose the impact the war on drugs has had on mothers, children, and families. I am proud to be a part of the City Council and Progressive Caucus’ push to undo decades worth of collateral damage and pave a path towards an equitable marijuana market.”
“With marijuana legalization in New York State inching ever closer, we must not make the mistakes of states that came before us. We need to prioritize the needs of communities most harmed by marijuana criminalization within the framework of a new cannabis economy. That’s why I’m proud to stand with the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus as we introduce our marijuana justice legislative package, which includes my resolutions calling for reforms to how our healthcare system treats legal marijuana,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, member of the Progressive Caucus.
“As New York State considers legalizing the recreational use of marijuana this year, it is imperative that we focus on righting the economic wrongs we have caused communities. Any legalization efforts should address the need for economic justice and promote equitable ownership and participation in commercial marijuana activity. Too many people have been cut out of jobs, cut out of business investments, and been denied home ownership because marijuana was criminalized,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, member of the Progressive Caucus. “The resolution I am introducing today, Reso. 741, would require the State to give priority to those with prior marijuana convictions when issuing licenses to be able to engage in the production, sale and distribution of marijuana. A priority licensing system would ensure that ownership and entrepreneurial opportunities are first given to those populations negatively impacted by the war on drugs. Those who receive licenses to sell recreational marijuana should also be encouraged to hire individuals who were convicted of marijuana related offenses, with a particular focus on formerly incarcerated individuals who served time based on marijuana violations.”
“We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less- and as we move toward legalization, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, member of the Progressive Caucus. “I’ve long advocated for legalization and the expunging of records, and this measure is in line with those goals. This legislation, like the Fair Chance Act before it, is good for both employers and prospective employees- it expands the pool of applicants by preventing people from being shut out for no reason. I want to thank the Progressive Caucus for their support of this legislation, and for their work on a number of measures that will reform the way we treat marijuana, both as we move toward legalization and into the next phase.”
“Given New York’s appalling history with racially biased marijuana enforcement, we must be bold and innovative in creating justice and equity. The package introduced today is wide-ranging and responsive to the calls for cities to look at steps they can take to address the harms of marijuana criminalization even ahead of the state moving on legalization. Communities cannot wait,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
“The measures introduced by the Progressive Caucus along with the Black Latino and Asian Caucus truly center the communities most harmed by biased marijuana enforcement. By directly addressing the heavy collateral consequences attached to marijuana arrests, prioritizing the expungement and vacatur of prior convictions, and emphasizing the need for community reinvestment, the caucuses understand the racial and economic justice issues involved with marijuana criminalization.” Anthony Posada, Community Justice Unit Supervising Attorney, Legal Aid.
(Images by: Erik McGregor)