The New York state legislature has been urged by the powers of the largest city in the state to give serious consideration to a couple of proposals seeking to legalize cannabis.
For the first time in history, the New York City Council included marijuana reform as part of their legislative outline for the 2015-2016 session, encouraging the state legislature to approve measures aimed at the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana across the state.
Specifically, the Council’s latest State Budget and Legislative Agenda requests the passing of two major marijuana policy reform efforts – the Fairness and Equity Act and the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act.
The bills, according to the Council’s recommendation, would put an end to a large number of racially-biased arrests “by ensuring that possession or sharing of small amounts of marijuana can never result in a criminal penalty.” All while generating millions of dollars in revenue for the state.
In November, just days following New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement to stop arresting people for petty pot possession, City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, came forward in support of full blown legalization.
“Based on the conversations that we see happening nationally, and how people feel about it, I think that it’s just something that is appropriate at this time,” she told the New York Daily News.
The NYC Council’s vocal position on pot reform directly conflicts with the opinions of Mayor de Blasio, who does not support the legalization of marijuana. Nevertheless, the Council suggests that the time has come to modify the state’s outdated pot laws, in an effort to end the disproportionate arrests of Blacks and Latinos and ultimately, stop “the cycle of branding nonviolent New Yorkers as criminals.”
“Unfortunately, New York’s current marijuana policies, coupled with biased policing practices and devastating collateral consequences, harm the lives of hundreds of thousands New Yorkers,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “New Yorkers have had enough, she continued. “We stand with Speaker Mark-Viverito, the NY City Council and New Yorkers across the state in demanding that Albany fix our broken marijuana policies and address years of racially biased criminalization by immediately passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and the Fairness and Equity Act. It’s time to end marijuana prohibition. It’s time for a new approach.”
Recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, but it is difficult to say whether this opinion will reverberate in the New York State Legislature. It was like pulling teeth last year waiting for Governor Cuomo to get comfortable enough with the Compassionate Care Act to finally legalize medical marijuana. Many argue that the Governor’s apprehensiveness towards legalization is responsible for creating a second rate medical marijuana program. Therefore, even if the state legislature acts in accordance with the NYC Council’s latest recommendation, it is highly unlikely this move would earn the support of the Governor.