Governor Cuomo Announces Marijuana Legalization Effort in 2021

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

Matt Sutton 212-613-8026

New York, NY – Today, Governor Cuomo announced he will pursue legislation in 2021 to establish a legal market for marijuana in New York, which would effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York State and create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol for adults over the age of 21. The question is no longer should New York legalize marijuana, 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 marijuana 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 marijuana 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 marijuana 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 marijuana criminalization. Communities that were devastated by the worst of New York’s marijuana 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 marijuana 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 marijuana justice in New York this session.