New York, NY — On Thursday, March 7th, Progressive Caucus Members Richards, Kallos, Reynoso, Public Advocate Williams, and Council Member Espinal rallied with representatives from the Legal Aid Society, Bronx Defenders, and the Harlem Business Alliance at City Hall to call for the state to ensure that legalized marijuana revenue is directed to communities harmed by prohibition first and foremost. A day after State Budget Director Robert Mujica released a statement insinuating all if not most of cannabis revenue should be directed towards the MTA, Progressive Caucus Members gathered to re-assert that revenue from marijuana legalization MUST be used to reinvest in communities that have been impacted by prohibition.
Addressing the collateral consequences from marijuana criminalization is at the center of the Caucus’ #MarijuanaJustice legislative package, which was introduced last month. A hearing on half of the legislative pieces of the package last week focused on the harmful effects of policing in New York City as the capital of America’s racist drug war.
“Communities of color have been disproportionately harmed by the criminalization of marijuana and therefore deserve prime access to all of the resources and opportunities legalization will bring. As Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, I am proud to join my colleagues in calling on the State to adopt a restorative justice approach and reinvest tax revenue from marijuana sales into the communities impacted most,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.
“As we expect marijuana legalization to move forward it is important that the communities that have been harmed by its prohibition for decades are empowered and that they get their fair share of the profits and economic activity that will come from legalization, ” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Yes, the MTA needs critical funding as soon as possible, but those funds cannot come on the backs of New Yorkers who for far too long have been victimized by past policies. The City’s plans to fix the MTA should not rely on future Marijuana tax revenue.”
“Marijuana enforcement in communities of color has had a devastating effect on families, so any effort to right those wrongs must include economic and social justice that repairs the damage done for decades,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety and member of the Progressive Caucus. “While transportation investments in impacted communities can be a part of the conversation, solid commitments must be made to direct funding to these communities along with investments in other critical areas such as education, healthcare and workforce development. The push to legalize marijuana must be driven by the need to replace arrests with economic and social opportunity and not a desire for revenue.”
“Communities of color have long endured unjust hardships as a result of the criminalization of marijuana,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “Now, as our State moves towards legalization, revenue generated should benefit those most harmed by its prohibition. Communities of color should be the ones to dictate how revenue is spent; not one dollar should go to the MTA unless that decision is made by the people that were most affected.”
“New York City has a responsibility to cannabis equity. For decades, New York State has been the marijuana arrest capital of the world, with the vast majority of arrests happening here in the city. In order to right these wrongs and bring some semblance of justice to communities that have been discriminately targeted by the war on drugs, we need to commit to restitution and community investment first and foremost,” said General Welfare Chair Council Member Stephen Levin, member of the Progressive Caucus. “As the lead sponsor of the Council’s resolution in support of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, I am proud to join my colleagues in calling for state legalization efforts to ensure that Marijuana revenues are directed to communities harmed from prohibition. Anything less is unacceptable.”
“Given New York’s appalling history with racially biased marijuana enforcement, as the state legalizes we must intentionally focus on creating equity and economic justice, and reinvesting the revenue from legalization into communities most impacted — not a blatant cash grab to address agency budget shortfalls that policymakers have other means to resolve. Revenue should rightfully be earmarked to atone for the debt owed to New Yorkers who were targets of biased enforcement, which still disproportionately affects black and Latino New Yorkers,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
“Marijuana prohibition in New York City has been a tool of hyper-criminalization that has kept Black and Brown communities controlled and surveilled by the police. While we need better transportation infrastructure, any serious effort to address the harms of this failed drug war must begin by directing specific revenue to disproportionately impacted communities to invest in youth programming, education, and rehabilitation services. The conversation cannot solely be about diverting the revenue generated from marijuana legalization into other areas like the MTA. On the contrary, there must be a clear and deliberate commitment to center those who have borne the brunt of prohibition by focusing on racial justice and community reinvestment,” said Anthony Posada, Supervising Attorney at Legal Aid Society.