New York’s unjust and racist “warfare on marijuana” is lastly nearing its finish.
It’s probably that in a bit of greater than a 12 months from now anybody older than 21 will have the ability to legally buy marijuana merchandise within the Empire State. And so, because the state legislature and our embattled governor shut in on a deal to finish prohibition, it’s excessive time we make a clear-eyed evaluation of what legalization ought to appear to be on Lengthy Island.
The brand new marijuana market is predicted to spice up Lengthy Island’s financial output by $878 million a 12 months and create hundreds of jobs, that are sorely wanted as we work to recuperate from the pandemic. However amid all the thrill about massive income, we can’t lose sight of 1 essential factor: Communities of shade have to be entrance and heart in each facet of the method.
For many years, Black and Brown people on Lengthy Island have been disproportionately focused and criminalized not for the sake of public security however to feed the jail industrial complicated. This devastated households and siphoned an unknowable quantity of sources from their communities, a dynamic exacerbated by years of austerity insurance policies. Legalizing marijuana has the potential to place our state on a path towards repairing a number of the harm completed by these misguided insurance policies.
We all know that the legislation in Albany dedicates a big portion of the income from authorized hashish gross sales to social fairness applications and faculty support. Each are the results of years of organizing and advocacy, and they need to be applauded. However we will’t let our native governments off the hook, particularly contemplating Lengthy Island officers’ time-honored observe of turning a blind eye to discrmination in what is likely one of the most segregated areas on this nation. Lengthy Island’s counties, cities, cities and villages should prioritize traditionally marginalized communities in all their marijuana-related initiatives.
Which means, amongst different issues, not opting out of the brand new market. In accordance with reviews in regards to the latest marijuana reform proposal, the choice to permit gross sales and deliveries in particular municipalities will fall on localities and never counties, as was the case with the governor’s earlier proposal. Cities, cities and villages ought to keep away from this error. Why anybody would need to lose out on financial advantages for his or her neighborhood solely to perpetuate racist prohibition insurance policies is past purpose.
Native officers also needs to scrap plans to preemptively implement discriminatory and punitive zoning restrictions in an try and maintain the brand new market from flourishing, placing Lengthy Island at a aggressive drawback vis-à-vis the remainder of the state. We’re already seeing this state of affairs play out in Oyster Bay, the place lawmakers are debating a proposal that may solely permit dispensaries in industrial areas.
That is 2021, however sadly some are caught within the Nineteen Thirties and nonetheless imagine “Reefer Insanity” myths.
Officers shouldn’t be fascinated by what they’ll do to halt progress; they need to be fascinated by how their municipalities can profit. Marijuana is poised to be the following craft beer, and it must be handled as such. Embrace it. However maintain justice and fairness high of thoughts as a result of the communities most harmed by prohibition deserve to learn essentially the most from legalization.
Lisa Tyson is the director of the Lengthy Island Progressive Coalition.