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New York District Attorneys’ Op-Ed Piece Calls for “New York to Move Forward” Through Marijuana Legalization

As the end of the legislative session in New York approaches tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19, Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney, and David Soares, the Albany County District Attorney, emphasize the importance of passing the Marijuana Revenue and Taxation Act in an op-ed piece published in the New York Daily News.  This op-ed is a final public plea to lawmakers, and in particular, to Gov. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, to work together to pass legislation that will legalize marijuana before the session concludes this week.

Emphasizing social equity, public safety, and public support, the DAs assert that:

“For too long, inaction on marijuana legalization has harmed communities of color and drained the resources of public safety officials, including law enforcement and prosecutors. And if the latest polls are any indication, a strong majority of residents across the state — including from upstate and suburban communities — agree that it’s time for New York to move forward.”

The DAs urge that legalization, rather than decriminalization, is required to advance social justice and rectify discriminatory enforcement since disparities in marijuana arrests persist.  They note the reality that over the last twenty years, over 900,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for marijuana possession, and in New York, a staggering 80% of all marijuana arrests target Black and Latino residents although marijuana usage rates are similar across demographics.  Further, these arrests have a lifelong lasting impact on employment and economic security that is detrimental to these communities.

The DAs propose that regulations are not only a key to social justice and equity but are also an effective tool to maintain and promote public safety.  In “Marijuana, Fairness and Public Safety,” published last May by the Manhattan DA’s Office, the district attorneys assert that other states have safely legalized marijuana through strong, effective regulations.  In these states, the DAs argue, youth usage has remained stable or declined without any significant increase in criminal activity, traffic fatalities, or drug addiction.  Soares and Vance acknowledge that New York is one of the largest marijuana markets in the world, and by failing to legalize marijuana, legislators are allowing this illegal market to grow and allowing increased exposure to extremely harmful and potentially deadly synthetic cannabinoids.

Last but not least, Soares and Vance highlight the economic impact of legalization.  The DAs assert that legalization would create upwards of 30,000 new jobs, resulting in an economic output of $4.1 billion, and $1.3 billion in annual state tax revenue.

The DAs unabashedly call on legislators to enact effective marijuana regulations to promote public safety and advance social justice. Only the next couple of days will tell if lawmakers will answer that call.

If you have any questions about this post or want further information about cannabis law and regulations in New York, please contact me at ssspangler@norris-law.com.