Press Release

Governor Cuomo Announces [Cannabis] Legalization Effort in 2021

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Statement from DPA’s Melissa Moore: New York Has Opportunity to Lead by Passing Most Progressive Legalization Bill in U.S., Must Atone for [Cannabis] Arrest Crusade Harms

January 6, 2020 – New York, NY – Today, Governor Cuomo announced he will pursue legislation in 2021 to establish a legal market for [cannabis] in New York, which would effectively end [cannabis] prohibition in New York State and create a system to tax and regulate [cannabis] in a manner similar to alcohol for adults over the age of 21. The question is no longer should New York legalize [cannabis], but what legalization will look like.

Statement from Melissa Moore, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance and member of Start SMART NY Coalition (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade):

“New York still has the opportunity to lead the country on cannabis legalization by establishing the most ambitious and progressive legalization program in the U.S. and implementing cannabis legalization from a social justice lens where other states have fallen short. 2021 is the right time for [cannabis] justice in New York and the budget period is a crucial time for advancing legalization, which can be an economic engine driving wealth and equity in marginalized communities and providing space for alternative economic systems—if we work intentionally.

Governor Cuomo and the legislature can cement New York as the national model for [cannabis] legalization by centering community reinvestment, equity, and justice within our comprehensive reform. We can do this by making our legalization effort one that benefits those who have been harmed by prohibition and focusing on creating equitable jobs and small businesses across the state as New York looks to recover from the pandemic. Given New York’s appalling history with racially-biased [cannabis] enforcement, we must be bold and innovative in creating justice and equity.

The Governor’s proposal must be as comprehensive as the damage that has been done throughout the state – it must ensure equity and diversity, while reinvesting in the communities that were the hardest hit by [cannabis] criminalization. Communities that were devastated by the worst of New York’s [cannabis] arrest crusade are now facing the additional crisis of COVID-19 deaths, job losses, and business closures. The Governor must commit to enacting true economic justice with legalization. Community reinvestment of cannabis tax revenue and the creation of an equitable and diverse industry that supports New York-based small businesses and farmers is even more crucial given the economic hardship and health toll from COVID-19. The communities that are on the frontlines of this crisis — in addition to shouldering the legacy of harmful [cannabis] enforcement — must be the center of our rebuilding effort.”

The Start SMART NY Coalition – which is comprised of organizations and advocates dedicated to criminal justice reform, civil rights, public health, and community-based organizations who support legalization – will continue to advocate that any legalization framework include provisions to reinvest tax revenues into communities harmed by cannabis criminalization, and looks forward to mobilizing to pass a bill rooted in [cannabis] justice in New York this session.

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About Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, in which people are no longer punished for what they put into their own bodies, and in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more. Our mission is to advance those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the autonomy of individuals over their minds and bodies. Learn more at drugpolicy.org.

Contact:
Matt Sutton 212-613-8026

msutton@drugpolicy.org

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