ACLU: Marijuana could put millions into low-income communities

Cyril Josh Barker | 5/31/2018, 10:20 a.m.
As the legalization of recreational marijuana becomes more and more of a reality in New York, the Empire State is ...
Marijuana

As the legalization of recreational marijuana becomes more and more of a reality in New York, the Empire State is getting an inside look at what legalizing the drug could mean.

A week after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the NYPD to only give summonses to people caught smoking marijuana in public rather than arresting them, a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union this week gives deeper look at the economic impact of legalizing marijuana.

“It would also drive millions of dollars in investments to low-income communities that have been hit hardest by the decades-long war on drugs,” Erika Lorshbough and Simon McCormack said in a statement. “The fiscal benefits of legalizing marijuana are obvious. Not only does it stop police, courts, and probation officers from wasting time and money on enforcing pot prohibition, it also raises tax revenue generated by legal sales.”

An analysis released earlier this month by City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that marijuana could bring New York State $436 million each year in new tax revenue and that New York City could earn $335 million annually.

However, one major question about marijuana legalization is the fate of the thousands of people, mostly Black and Latino, who are serving time for possession and other marijuana crimes. Lorshbough and McCormack say the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act eliminates many existing misdemeanors and felonies related to marijuana from the criminal code.

“Importantly, these dramatic reductions in criminal liability will be retroactive, meaning past convictions for crimes reduced or eliminated by the legislation may be sealed or reduced on the person’s criminal record,” they said.

Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie reiterated his stance in Albany that any bill legalizing marijuana should include provisions that would expunge records of people convicted on marijuana-related charges. He said currently a drug charge is a barrier for those seeking housing or work.

“There’s a lot of issues that we have to address,” he said last week. “It’s not just whether we legalize it.”

This week, the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition kicked off at the Javits Convention Center in Midtown. The event, which runs through Saturday, features more than 100 companies with a wide array of products and services for the medical marijuana, legalized adult use and industrial hemp industries. Speakers at the event include media personality Montel Williams, State Senator Diane Savino and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.