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THE DETAILS TO DELIVER: Stringer introduces cannabis plan to ensure impacted New Yorkers get their fair share from legal cannabis industry

Stringer proposes NYC Cannabis Equity Program to drive economic opportunity for New Yorkers impacted by the War on Drugs, create job and training pipelines, and overcome regulatory hurdles

As we move towards launching a legal multi-billion dollar adult-use cannabis industry — Black and Latinx New Yorkers cannot be left out…As Mayor, I will work to ensure that communities unjustly impacted by decades of over-policing and overcriminalization get their fair share from the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.

— Scott Stringer

New York, NY – As the State moves to create a legal adult-use cannabis industry after recently passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer today released a groundbreaking plan to create an equitable cannabis industry in New York City that accounts for the disproportionate harms of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration on communities of color.

Stringer’s plan will create the New York City Cannabis Equity program to drive economic opportunity for impacted New Yorkers, ensuring racial justice throughout the industry so that the new legal market does not replicate the same racial inequities and harms that existed under prohibition. As the experiences of other states show, this is all too often the case. Only an estimated 1 percent of the more than 3,000 marijuana dispensaries in the U.S. are Black-owned.

In addition, Stringer’s Cannabis Equity agenda will dedicate all city sales tax revenue from retail purchases of adult-use cannabis products to impacted communities, end cannabis drug testing and surveillance, support expungement and dismissal of prior cannabis-related convictions for New Yorkers, and provide universal legal representation for New Yorkers in immigration proceedings.

“As we move towards launching a legal, multi-billion dollar adult-use cannabis industry — Black and Latinx New Yorkers cannot be left out,”said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “For far too long, Black and Latinx communities have been disproportionately targeted, policed and incarcerated because of discriminatory cannabis enforcement policies. Legalizing adult-use cannabis was the first step towards justice, but we can’t stop there. As Mayor, I will work to ensure that communities unjustly impacted by decades of over-policing and over-criminalization get a fair share. My NYC Cannabis Equity program will reinvest in communities impacted by the harmful practices of the past and help to build a future of economic and racial justice. The time to act is now.” 

NYC Cannabis Equity: A Plan to Create a Just and Safe Industry in New York City

For years, advocates and New Yorkers directly impacted by the War on Drugs have fought for an end to the racist and punitive enforcement of our marijuana laws.Although city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) data show white New Yorkers report higher rates of cannabis use than New Yorkers of color, the vast majority of people arrested or issued a criminal summons in New York City for marijuana has been Black or Latino. These racial disparities have persisted even as the current administration has taken limited steps to decriminalize use. In 2020, Black and Latino New Yorkers accounted for 93 percent of all marijuana arrests and criminal summonses.

Scott understands that marijuana justice is economic and racial justice, which is why he made legalization a top priority as Comptroller, issuing reports on the estimated economic impact of legalization and on the harms of prohibition on lower-income New Yorkers of color. Now that New York has passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), becoming the 15th state to legalize marijuana for adult use, Scott is laser-focused on ensuring that this new legal market does not reproduce the same racial inequities and harms that existed under prohibition. As the experiences of other states show, this is all too often the case. Only an estimated 1 percent of the more than 3,000 marijuana dispensaries in the U.S. are Black-owned. New York City must chart a different course.

Scott has been out front on the need to prioritize and deliver racial justice as we legalize marijuana, and as Mayor he will:

Establish the NYC Cannabis Equity Program. As mayor, Scott will create a NYC Cannabis Equity Program to drive economic opportunity for New Yorkers impacted by the War on Drugs and address the barriers – such as lack of access to capital – that have historically prevented Black and Latino entrepreneurs from gaining a foothold in the multi-billion dollar industry. The MRTA includes groundbreaking, equity-focused provisions that New York City should view as a floor, not a ceiling, for ensuring those harmed by drug policies, including those with marijuana-related convictions, are able to obtain cannabis licenses and jobs. The NYC Cannabis Equity Program will be the City’s clearinghouse for the adult-use industry, responsible for delivering a range of resources and services, including the following: 

Reinvest local tax revenue in communities ravaged by the War on Drugs. The MRTA allocates 40 percent of tax revenue to a community grants reinvestment fund that will provide grants to community-based nonprofit organizations and localities to support New Yorkers disproportionately harmed by drug policies – funding everything from adult education and mental health treatment to housing and employment services. As mayor, Scott will ensure that in addition, all city sales tax money derived from the sales of adult-use cannabis products will be reinvested in communities, providing restitution for the economic harms of criminalization.

Fight for a Cannabis Control Board (CCB) that centers racial justice. The CCB is the newly established governing body responsible for establishing and regulating New York’s legal cannabis industry, and will consist of five board members — a chair nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, two appointed by the Governor, and two seats appointed by the Legislature, with both the State Senate and Assembly each having one appointment. The Board will oversee the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale and taxation of medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp within New York State. Scott is calling on the State and Governor to ensure the members of the Board, and the staff of the new State Office of Cannabis Management, share the Legislature’s commitment to racial justice and include representatives from impacted communities.

Support New Yorkers in navigating expungement and dismissal of prior convictions. Alongside legalizing marijuana for adult use, the MRTA requires free automatic expungement of past convictions for marijuana-related offenses that will no longer be criminalized, a critical measure to help New Yorkers rebuild their lives. Scott will partner with legal services organizations and invest in public outreach and education to make sure that New Yorkers with prior convictions understand which charges are automatically expunged and are connected with legal support, as appropriate, to obtain the relief provided for by State law.

Provide universal legal representation for New Yorkers in immigration proceedings. Scott is committed to expanding existing funding for immigrant legal services and removing the criminal carve-out that restricts certain immigrants’ access to City-funded services. Because marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law, and even an expunged marijuana-related conviction can have negative federal immigration consequences, people with immigration status concerns will have to follow the vacator process to have convictions vacated and dismissed. Investments in legal support will be critical to ensure immigrant New Yorkers can most effectively and safely navigate immigration proceedings and applications.

Advocate for equitable and safe access to on-site consumption spaces. The ability to license on-site consumption spaces is an important and landmark feature of the MRTA for both the workforce and consumers. Licenses for on-site consumption businesses tend not to require as much capital to access, providing opportunity for less well-resourced entrepreneurs, and have the potential to create hundreds of local jobs. Additionally, these businesses will provide adults who live in settings still subject to the federal prohibition on marijuana – like NYCHA residents – with a safe, sanctioned space to consume. As mayor, Scott will work with the City Council to ensure any legislation governing the operation of on-site consumption businesses prioritizes the needs of these New Yorkers and follows all applicable requirements, including prohibiting the licensing of sites near schools and houses of worship.

End drug testing and surveillance. For years, drug testing for marijuana has cost New Yorkers employment opportunities, undermining their financial futures, prevented New Yorkers from accessing health care and other social services, and even separated families through the unnecessary involvement of the child welfare system. As mayor, Scott will put an end to this punitive drug testing, including during and after pregnancy, and ensure that employers and landlords are following the MRTA’s provisions protecting people against discrimination for lawful cannabis use.

Monitor implementation of criminal legal system changes. Scott will make sure that the NYPD follows the new law and no longer engages in enforcement activities in ways that have racially disparate outcomes. Specifically, Scott will ensure that the NYPD follows the law’s protections against using the odor of cannabis for probable cause and strictly adheres to decriminalization of marijuana possession for young people under 21.

Advocate for an end to the federal prohibition on marijuana and for banking opportunities for cannabis businesses. As long as marijuana is criminalized at the federal level, the benefits of legalization in New York will not be felt equally, with immigrant communities and NYCHA residents particularly disadvantaged, as outlined above. Additionally, the federal prohibition creates enormous barriers to accessing banking and financial services for cannabis business owners. That’s why Scott supports and will urge Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which cleared the House in the last Congress.

Scott Stringer was born and raised in Washington Heights. He attended P.S. 152 on Nagle Avenue and I.S. 52 on Academy Street. He graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Marble Hill and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, a CUNY school.

Stringer was elected City Comptroller in 2013. Prior to serving as Comptroller, he was Manhattan Borough President from 2006 to 2013 and represented the Upper West Side in the New York State Assembly from 1992 to 2005. He and his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, live in Manhattan with their two children, Max and Miles.

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