Albany, NY – In response to Governor Cuomo signing marijuana legalization into law, following the New York State Legislature’s overwhelmingly approval of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.854-A/A.1248-A) last night, Melissa Moore, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“A new era for marijuana justice is here. After years of hard work against long odds, New York has enacted one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the country. Let’s be clear — the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act is an outright victory for the communities hit hardest by the failed war on drugs. By placing community reinvestment, social equity, and justice front and center, this law is the new gold standard for reform efforts nationwide. Today we celebrate, tomorrow we work hard to make sure this law is implemented fairly and justly for all New Yorkers.”
For years, DPA has been on the forefront working to reduce marijuana arrests statewide, allow medical marijuana and legalize marijuana for adult use. With its Start SMART NY campaign, DPA has worked to end marijuana prohibition in New York and create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was first introduced in the New York State Legislature in 2013, and the Drug Policy Alliance has been supporting the call for adult-use legalization and regulation since the initial conversations with the bill sponsors, Senator Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, more than 8 years ago.
In the 2019 legislative session, advocates were extremely close to passing marijuana legalization in the state budget, but when there was a lack of commitment to community reinvestment from the Governor, legislative champions Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes and Senator Krueger continued pushing for full marijuana justice or no deal. The 2019 legislative session ended without adult-use legalization, but a separate bill established expungement for the first time in New York State for low-level marijuana arrests because of relentless pressure from advocates.
The barebones pandemic budget of 2020 scrambled marijuana reform efforts, but DPA persisted by organizing with allies across multiple movements throughout the year in recognition of the way that marijuana prohibition has had devastating impacts in so many areas of people’s lives across the state.
In 2021, DPA worked closely with advocates, communities impacted by prohibition and lawmakers to reach the finish line and see the legislature pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act with robust provisions for addressing prior harms of criminalization, groundbreaking social equity architecture, and significant community reinvestment of cannabis tax revenue. Through advocacy and mobilization, DPA redoubled its efforts and helped achieve a goal that was decades in the making: marijuana reform that puts equity, community investment and justice front and center in New York.