New York, NY — On Wednesday, February 27, the New York City Council held the first of three joint hearings on the Progressive Caucus’s #MarijuanaJustice legislative package. Specifically, the Council’s Committees on Public Safety, Justice, Consumer Affairs & Business Licensing, and Civil & Human Rights met jointly to hear two proposed laws banning the Department of Probation from conducting drug tests for marijuana, and banning employers from requiring employees to submit to tests for THC as a condition of employment.
The council also heard several resolutions part of the #MarijuanaJustice package, including ones calling for legalization of marijuana at the state and federal levels, calling for the expungement of all misdemeanor marijuana offenses, calling for the reinvestment of revenues from marijuana in communities most impacted by the war on drugs, calling for those with marijuana convictions to be prioritized in both the issuance of licenses for selling and in hiring in the marijuana industry, and encouraging small business growth in the industry, among others.
During the hearing, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. testified that he supports marijuana legalization and committed his office to record expungement. Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark also released a statement during the hearing, stating that her office would no longer prosecute low level marijuana crimes, although her office did not commit to clearing or vacating past offenses.
The Department of Probation testified in support of Intro 1427, sponsored by Public Safety Chair Donovan Richards, which would prohibit drug testing for marijuana for individuals on probation. The Commission on Human Rights also provided supportive testimony on Council Member Williams’s bill Intro 1445 regarding a ban on pre-employment cannabis drug testing. Advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance, Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Legal Aid Society, Harlem Business Alliance, Democracy at Work Institute, and other organizations also testified about the importance of centering equity and restitution in marijuana legalization, reflected in Council Member Kallos’ and Ampry-Samuel’s resolution on banning vertical integration and Council Member Stephen Levin’s calls to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
As legalization is being discussed at the state level, the #MarijuanaJustice package includes four pieces of legislation and thirteen resolutions sponsored by members of the Progressive Caucus that express support for ethical legalization that prioritize equity and restitution, reduce the collateral consequences from marijuana criminalization, and promote policies that prioritize the inclusion of communities most harmed by marijuana criminalization.
“Marijuana criminalization has taught us that we as a city suffer when state laws prevent us from enacting policy changes that our own police force must follow,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety and member of the Progressive Caucus. “If we want the NYPD to stop engaging in enforcement practices that target communities of color, we need the legal authority to stop them. The Council’s proposed legislation, in conjunction with the Mayoral Task Force Recommendations, send a clear message to Albany that the Council and city agencies are in the best position to decide how and where marijuana can be used, sold, consumed, grown, delivered and advertised here in New York City. Marijuana legalizations in New York State is long overdue, but we’re only going to get one shot at righting the wrongs of the past and that is why this conversation today is so important to so many New Yorkers who have been unjustly impacted by the war on drugs.”
“Legalization of marijuana is coming to New York State and if we are going to legalize it, it is only fair that we do the best we can as a City to undo the harm criminalization has caused in communities of color,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “As legalization moves forward it is important people of color are empowered, especially by creating and expanding opportunities for small business loans, robust job training, ongoing technical support, and benefits for potential entrepreneurs seeking employment in the cannabis industry with strong protections that do not exclude those with prior convictions. Thank you to my Progressive Caucus colleagues for standing up on this issue in today’s hearings.”
“Nearly one million New Yorkers have been ensnared in the criminal justice system simply for marijuana. As the state closes the book on its shameful war on marijuana, legalization must help repair the damage perpetrated on individuals and communities,” said Melissa Moore, New York State Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Alliance and member of Start SMART NY. “The actions of the NYC Council members on this issue highlight how at every level of government we must be must be bold and innovative in creating justice and equity. Given New York’s appalling history with racially biased marijuana enforcement, legalization must be as comprehensive as the damage that has been done throughout the state – it must deal with the extensive collateral consequences individuals face, ensure equity and diversity on day one, and reinvest revenue in the communities that were the hardest hit by marijuana criminalization.”
#MarijuanaJustice Bills and Resolutions Heard on 2/27/2019:
Int 1427 – By Council Member Richards – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to drug testing not permitted by the department of probation.
Int 1445 – By Council Members Williams, Cumbo and Rivera – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to prohibition of drug testing for pre-employment hiring procedures.
Res 75 – By Council Members Levin, Brannan, Levine, Espinal, Torres, Cornegy, Ampry-Samuel, Reynoso, Cumbo and Richards – 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.
Res 296 – By Council Members Williams, Ampry-Samuel and Reynoso – Resolution calling on the New York City Housing Authority (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.
Res 641 – By Council Members Williams, Levin, Cumbo and Ayala – Resolution calling on the coordination of 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.
Res 734 – By The Speaker (Council Member Johnson) and Council Cumbo – Resolution calling on the New York State legislature to ensure that any law passed to legalize recreational marijuana allows the City to enact its own regulatory measures on issues unique to its location including the home delivery and cultivation of recreational marijuana in New York City.
Res 737 – By Council Members Cumbo and Ampry-Samuel – Resolution calling on the New York State legislature to pass legislation that grants New York City agencies the authority to regulate local licensing of recreational marijuana in the City. Local control over business and café licensing.
Res 738 – By Council Members Kallos and Ampry-Samuel – Resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation prohibiting vertical integration and promoting small business growth in the recreational marijuana industry.
Res 741 – By Council Members Levin and Cumbo – Resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to introduce and pass and for the Governor to sign legislation that prioritizes individuals with prior marijuana convictions in issuing licenses to sell recreational marijuana and requires other applicants for marijuana licenses to support the hiring of such individuals.
Res 742 – By Council Members Menchaca, Richards, and Holden – Resolution calling upon the New York State legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation allowing localities to establish any prohibition on public consumption of marijuana and any related civil penalties.
Res 743 – By Council Members Miller, Adams and Moya – 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.
Res 744 – By Council Members Miller, Richards, Levin, Adams, Moya and Cumbo – Resolution calling on the Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign a bill that remedies disparate burdens placed on people of color in the enforcement of marijuana prohibition by reinvesting tax revenue generated from legal marijuana in their communities and encouraging their participation in the legal marijuana industry.
Res 745 – By Council Member Moya – Resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation related to the reclassifying of THC and all other marijuana based products from a controlled substance to the equivalent of flower marijuana.