Written by Kevin Heffernan

Get ready. It’s time to catch up to half the country.

Cannabis (WEED!) is less dangerous than alcohol, and it’s shaking off its 1960’s stigma quickly. We know legalizing it makes sense, and we can all reap the benefits of its taxation, but there’s so much more to this story in regards to economic and criminal justice.

Recreation marijuana legalization, though very late, has been inevitable in NYS for some time. The question was whether it would be done the right way for all of the state’s citizens, or the wrong way to benefit only its wealthy elite. Earlier this year, we spoke with NYS Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Lead Organizer at Open Buffalo, India Walton about these issues. When medical marijuana was legalized, its business rules were set up in a way to benefit only the richest among us, and it did nothing to remediate the injustice of all the lives ruined by a failed war on drugs. Hear about those rules meant to block out the poor and middle class, and the hypocrisy of it all here:

“On average, it costs $2.5M just to get started, including a non-refundable $10K application fee. I mean, who has $10K to just throw away in starting a business?”

“It costs over $600M for NYS to incarcerate people unnecessarily each year… this is an opportunity to not just end the war on drugs that has had a horrible impact on communities of color, but it’s an opportunity to begin something new as well.”

When we made these videos last spring, (Also check out this article we put together that pretty much features Jay-Z) we honestly thought, “Yeah, how nice this would be, but it will probably get shot down in a Republican-controlled Senate.” Now, for the first time in a very long time, the Assembly, Senate and Governor in New York State are in Democratic control. Our government has been given a green light by the people to push through progressive policies.

In 2018, there were bills in the Assembly and Senate that not only legalized marijuana recreationally, but also made it easier for anyone, not just millionaires, that were doomed. Now they have a shot:

Here’s the bill, sponsored by NY Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. It enjoys support in the Democrat-controlled assembly.

Here’s its counterpart in the NY Senate. Previously stifled by a Republican-controlled Senate, it’s not free to move forward in the upcoming session.

After this week’s election, we reached out to Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes for a statement about the possibilities ahead:

“I’m ecstatic to have a Democratic Senate Majority, but I don’t think it changes things as it relates to legalizing adult use cannabis. For differing reasons, I believe that both sides of the aisle would support it. I believe that conservative thoughts are continuing to shift as Republican Senators are starting to see the business advantages and economic opportunities that the Cannabis industry can afford to their upstate rural communities (growing cannabis and hemp). I think what a Democratic Senate Majority does do is makes passing the restorative social justice and community reinvestment planks much easier which will benefit urban communities of color,” stated Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.

A Democratic-led Senate could just get it pushed through. The right way. For everyone.

“Our thought process is that some of the business has to be directed toward those disenfranchised communities.”