Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams reacted with cautious optimism to Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s plan to make the legalization of recreational marijuana one of his priorities in the coming year.
Cuomo announced the initiative as part of his 20-point legislative plan to get accomplished within the first 100 days of 2019. The move, according to the New York Times, could generate more than $1.7 billion in sales annually, providing needed tax revenue and joining 10 other states and Washington DC as having legalized recreational marijuana.
In introducing the marijuana proposal at Manhattan’s Roosevelt Institute, Cuomo noted that for far too long recreational marijuana arrests and prosecutions have targeted the African-American and minority communities.
This point was not lost on Adams, who quickly put out a release saying the time is overdue for New York to chart a path toward marijuana legalization.
“As legislative debate begins on this issue in Albany, we must keep mindful of longstanding disparities between communities across our state in commercial entrepreneurship, criminal justice, and public health. There must be mechanisms in place that ensure the public is protected from recreational marijuana’s harmful effects, as well as that create truly meaningful pathways for historically disadvantaged and persecuted communities to be uplifted out of the shadows and into the bright light of a new economic and social opportunity for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live. That includes expunging the records of individuals previously convicted of low-level marijuana-related crimes such as possession misdemeanors,” said Adams.
Adams cautioned though that a legal marijuana market requires setting stringent health standards, just like recommended dosages for alcohol and warning labels for cigarettes.
“Without these kinds of advisories and protections, we risk exposing our communities to lifelong health damage, which could also lead to an increasing burden on our health care system. We cannot have legalization lead down a path toward irresponsible use of marijuana that exacerbates health disparities in poor, urban communities of color,” said Adams.
“We must also empower disadvantaged communities to actively participate in a newly regulated market that would eliminate racial and socioeconomic disparities. Licensed vendors should be able to open new establishments in disadvantaged communities through the promotion of local entrepreneurship, particularly in communities of color,” he added.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) said while it is encouraging to hear Cuomo finally embrace the legalization of adult-use cannabis, more information is still needed about his plan to do right by the communities most affected by cannabis prohibition.
“For decades the war on drugs, perpetrated by local and national administrations, targeted young black and brown men. We must ensure that the criminal records that were unfairly levied are not just sealed, but expunged and that future revenue from legalization be invested in these communities, funding both education and jobs programs. We can not move forward with an adult-use program until we know that these injustices of the past are made right,” said Mosley.
Other parts to Cuomo’s 20-point plan included:
Codify Reproductive Rights: In the face of the federal assault on women’s reproductive rights, including a Supreme Court that threatens to roll back Roe v. Wade, Governor Cuomo will fight to pass the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraceptive
Launch a $150 Billion Infrastructure Plan: While the federal government fails to make progress on an infrastructure plan, Governor Cuomo will expand on New York’s nation-leading $100 billion infrastructure plan — building new airports, bridges and train stations all across the state — by investing an additional $150 billion in our infrastructure that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Passing Congestion Pricing: After decades of neglect and diffused responsibility, the MTA is in dire need of funding and reorganization. Cuomo will fix the MTA by passing congestion pricing and overhauling the outdated structure of the authority in order to build a reliable, state of the art mass transit system with a steady funding stream and a structure that supports operational excellence.
Pass the Dream Act: While the federal government has declared war on new immigrants, New York is standing up for our immigrant communities. This year, New York will pass the Dream Act once and for all to ensure a higher education system that opens the door of opportunity to all of our children.
Pass the Child Victims Act: Cuomo will fight to ensure our society holds those who abuse our children accountable criminally and civilly by passing the Child Victims Act once and for all.