Some New York lawmakers and the Legal Aid Society are calling for last-minute legislation that would legalize marijuana as the state deals with a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Earlier this year, prior to the pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he had intentions to legalize marijuana, as it would potentially bring $300 million in revenues to the state.
However, once the pandemic struck, Cuomo dedicated his time and resources to that, and the state is now facing a potential $61 billion shortfall.
In response, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, Sen. Jessica Ramos, and Sen. Jamaal Bailey issued a joint statement saying that the criminalization of marijuana is “rooted in racial and economic justice,” and should be legalized.
“As the state reaches for new sources of revenue to help rebuild, it must also acknowledge how the pandemic has compounded the long-standing disparate effects of economic deprivation on communities of color, and how that deprivation has been exacerbated by marijuana prohibition,” they wrote. “We urgently need marijuana legalization rooted in racial and economic justice.”
During his daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, May 20 in Albany, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said they’ve been looking at where new cases have been cropping up, and they’ve largely been in lower-income communities where people of color largely live.
“The data shows not just a high number of positive cases, but the virus is continuing to spread in those communities,” he said. “In some communities, we’ve seen the infection rate rise and the hospital rate has doubled in some places.”
The Senators’ legislation for anyone in New York over the age of 21 to use, grow, and sell marijuana in a licensed and taxable system that would be overseen by state officials. They noted that it could bring desperately needed income for those communities Cuomo spoke of.
“The pandemic has compounded the long-standing disparate effects of economic deprivation on communities of color,” they stated. “That deprivation has been exacerbated by marijuana prohibition.”