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New York, NY — On Thursday, March 28, the Progressive Caucus rallied with the Black, Latino/a, and Asian Caucus and advocates to mark the passage of several resolutions supporting the ethical legalization of marijuana, reducing the collateral consequences from marijuana criminalization, and promoting 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 was created in conjunction with Drug Policy Alliance and addresses some of these collateral consequences of marijuana prohibition, 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. It is the Caucus’ position that decriminalization alone is not enough; marijuana legalization with a strong economic justice component must be passed by Albany. In addition, 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.

Council Members Donovan Richards, Steve Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Helen Rosenthal, Daneek Miller, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Rory Lancman, and Drug Policy Alliance, Make the Road New York, The Legal Aid Society, VOCAL-NY, Brooklyn Defender Services, Harlem Business Alliance, Center for Constitutional Rights, Communities for Police Reform were in attendance.

“The passage of today’s resolutions is a clear indication that New York City leaders are united in achieving comprehensive marijuana reform,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “New York has been the marijuana arrest capital of the world for decades, disproportionately harming communities of color — it is time to enact legislation to legalize and fully decriminalize cannabis for every neighborhood and commit to real restitution for the communities and families who have been wronged by decades of bad policy. We’ve learned from legalization efforts across the country and we have the tools to do this the right way. This series of resolutions supports a clear roadmap to bring social and economic justice to New Yorkers, and I urge the state to pass it in this year’s budget.”

“Marijuana legalization in New York State must be done right and must be done now,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “That means clearing convictions; ending the punishment of parents, tenants, and immigrants; and reinvesting in communities most harmed by prohibition. Every day that marijuana continues to be criminalized, New Yorkers continue to suffer immense and unjust consequences. We thank the Progressive Caucus for standing up for marijuana justice.”

“Decades of an ill-conceived and inherently racist ‘war on drugs’ have caused profound damage to communities of color across New York, destroying far too many lives. Now is the time to begin to address this wrong by fully decriminalizing marijuana, and focusing on restorative justice for the communities most affected. But justice will not be achieved unless communities impacted by the ‘war on drugs’ have full access to the economic opportunities created by decriminalization. This means reinvesting a significant share of profits in local communities, and ensuring that minority and women-owned businesses, and persons who have previously been criminalized, have equal access to the industry. We owe these communities far more but this is a good place to start,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Member of the Progressive Caucus.

“We applaud the Progressive Caucus and the Black Hispanic and Asian Caucus for leading on this issue and we stand with our allies tirelessly working to legalize marijuana under a racial justice and community reinvestment framework,” said Anthony Posada, Legal Aid. “ The communities we serve that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition have waited too long for legalization. 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, clearing criminal records through expungement and prioritizing those who have been harmed to have a meaningful stake in the community.  By addressing the collateral consequences attached to marijuana arrests and calling on the state to legalize marijuana the right way, this Marijuana Justice package is a sign of true leadership and a commitment to address the harms of the failed war on drug.”

“The facts are clear. Whether arrests or summonses, marijuana enforcement perpetuates racial discrimination towards New Yorkers of color, depriving future generations of higher education, employment, and homeownership opportunities,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “We have a moral obligation to end this legacy of misery, and make them whole again. Criminal records for petty marijuana offenses must not be sealed but automatically expunged, and a significant share of the new market reserved for minority businesses so that our aggrieved communities of color can have cannabis equity. Any effort at legalization that falls short of embracing these key principles will not represent true reform, and failure to resolve this issue before the state adopts its budget will only perpetuate the discriminatory policing of Black and Brown New Yorkers, and impede their upward mobility. We are taking a clear stand on this issue, and implore the Legislature and the Governor to heed our call.”

“Lawmakers negotiate the feasibility of ending marijuana prohibition while Black and Latinx New Yorkers continue to suffer under criminalization. Legalizing marijuana is about more than creating a revenue stream for the state, it’s about ending decades of racist law enforcement.  If lawmakers throw this bill out of the budget, they are saying the people impacted by criminalization are disposable,” said Dionna King, Drug Policy Alliance.

The marijuana legislation passing on Thursday, March 28, includes the following resolutions:

Res 641 – By the Public Advocate (Mr. Williams) and Council Members Levin, Cumbo, Ayala and Lander – 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.

Proposed Res 75-A –  By Council Members Levin, Brannan, Levine, Espinal, Torres, Cornegy, Ampry-Samuel, Reynoso, Cumbo, Richards, Lander and Kallos – Resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass the Marihuana 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 the Public Advocate (Mr. Williams) and Council Members Ampry-Samuel, Reynoso, Lander and Kallos – 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.

Proposed Res 742-A – By Council Members Richards, Holden, Lander and Kallos – Resolution calling upon the New York State legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that grants localities the authority to regulate public consumption within their jurisdictions, including the authority to determine whether to enact any penalties and how to enforce such penalties.

Res 743 – By Council Members Miller, Adams, Moya, Lander, Ampry-Samuel and Kallos – 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 745 – By Council Members Moya and Kallos – 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.

Proposed Res 734-A – By The Speaker (Council Member Johnson) and Council Members Cumbo, Lander and Kallos – Resolution calling on the New York State legislature to ensure that any law passed to legalize the market for the adult use of cannabis allows the City to enact its own regulatory measures on issues unique to its location including the home delivery and cultivation of cannabis in New York City.

Proposed Res 737-A – By Council Members Cumbo, Ampry-Samuel, Lander and Kallos – Resolution calling on the New York State legislature to pass legislation that grants New York City agencies the authority to regulate local licensing of the adult-use cannabis market in the City.

Res 738 – By Council Members Kallos, Ampry-Samuel and Lander – 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.

Proposed Res 741-A – By Council Members Levin, Cumbo and Kallos – 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. No. 744 – By Council Members Miller, Richards, Levin, Adams, Moya, Cumbo, Lander, Ampry-Samuel and Kallos – 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.

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