Democratic lawmakers in New York passed a marijuana legalization measure on March 30 that may expunge the felony drug records of thousands of people.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the Assembly majority leader in Albany, hopes the measure will combat the war on drugs, which is essentially a war on Black and Brown people. A 2020 study of marijuana arrests by the NYPD found 94% were of Black or Hispanic people.
"It's been horrible," Peoples-Stokes told NPR. "This specific war on drugs dismantled a huge chunk of our population."
According to an American Civil Liberties Union report, arrest records between 2001 and 2010 showed Black people were 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for identical drug offenses.
It could take from 18 months to two years for New Yorkers to be legally able to purchase marijuana.
Sadly, states legalizing marijjuana does not allow people of color access to the marijuana industry. New York is hoping to be different from other states.
Peoples-Stokes said to NPR, "It's our plan to make sure that happens. We've put all the guard rails in place to support that."
It’s not known as of yet how New York will ensure people of color are not pushed out of the cannabis industry, which is extremely competitive and expensive.
According to Piece of Mind Cannabis, a marijuana business and advocacy organization, average startup costs for opening a dispensary can range from $150,000 to more than $2 million.