Although it’s uncertain if a bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol could become law in New York, a state Assembly hearing Thursday showed that lawmakers are taking the prospect of legalizing “adult use” seriously.
Rather than simply focusing on whether the state should end the prohibition of recreational marijuana, Assembly members asked pointed questions about what legalization should look like.
Advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance, Vocal-NY and a range of other advocacy groups said that full legalization in New York should address the harm that prohibition has caused to communities of color, whose members are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession. One approach is to proactively diversify license recipients.
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“I know there’s industry in the room,” said Kassandra Frederique, director of the New York chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We will fight you tooth and nail every day if New York is set to create an industry that continues the subjugation and stealing of wealth from communities of color.”
Dr. Malik Burnett, a physician and advocate who helped shape marijuana policy in Washington, D.C., said lawmakers considering legalizing recreational use should prohibit the type of vertical integration that has created a marijuana oligopoly here. New York’s medical program has so far required each licensed company to be responsible for multiple stages of production—in this case, growing, processing and distributing cannabis.
Such vertical integration “causes political chicanery, skulduggery and fighting,” said Burnett. “The alternative strategy is a three-tier licensing system with separate licenses for cultivation, processing and distribution.”
Burnett noted that California went even further, subdividing each of those types of licenses to create different categories for small, medium and large companies. “That allows individuals, regardless of