New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed new legislation legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. Under the new law, 40% of tax revenue from marijuana will be allocated to helping marginalized communities. Of course, while reinvesting the money into minority communities is a great starting point, this won’t undo the damage the state has already caused to those communities. Millions of people’s lives hang in the balance of progressive legislation reform; as more states push for legalization, the same push should be continued at a federal level.
The legalization of marijuana is a momentous step forward for the state of New York. This is especially true for the marginalized communities that have been greatly affected by restrictions surrounding marijuana in the past. Just this past year, New Yorkers of color made up 94% of marijuana-related arrests by the New York Police Department. These arrests bombarded thousands with felony charges that make it harder to access federal money or seek employment.
However, under this new law, people who were convicted of marijuana-related charges will have their records automatically expunged. It will be easier for individuals to live freely without the fear of their past convictions coming back to haunt them. Additionally, the state will also implement a program that aims to give dispensary licenses to individuals who are a part of minority communities. This ensures that white-owned marijuana businesses won’t monopolize the market.
While the governor of New York has been very proactive in getting this legislation passed so that these promises will come to fruition, it is up to the citizens of New York to focus on making sure the state actually delivers on the benefits minorities so rightfully deserve.
It’s been estimated that recreational marijuana sales will eventually make over $350 million in tax revenue and billions in sales. It should be the state’s top priority that communities who have been generationally affected by past unfair regulations are benefitting the most from this economic boost. Although nothing could make up for the valuable years many residents have lost due to marijuana-related criminal charges, it’s still a great starting point for reform.
As more states push to legalize recreational marijuana use, the United States as a whole should be advocating for a change in federal legislation. Recreational marijuana sales help local economies and the United States has the possibility of expanding this success nationwide. More importantly, changing federal restrictions will help millions of Americans who have been affected by harsh regulations. This would be a critical step in the right direction not only for reforming drug-related charges, but for changing the prison system as a whole in this country.
The state of New York has done a good job at pushing forward legislation with the intention to make it inclusive for minority groups. Besides merely legalizing the sale of marijuana and not allowing bigger corporations to completely take over the market, they have also allocated proper space exclusively for vendors from marginalized communities. Black and Latino communities need to be given the proper resources to succeed in a business they have historically been punished for partaking in.