Assemblymember Bronson: Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana is an Important Step Toward Social Equity

“For far too long, low-income and minority communities have been disproportionately affected by outdated drug laws, including the criminalization of marijuana. Today, we took a historic step toward righting this injustice.

“Legalization of adult marijuana seeks racial justice, promotes equitable small business economic growth and addresses health and safety issues. Recognizing the generational devastation caused by marijuana prohibition, this new law will invest in marginalized communities, automatically expunge prior convictions of low-level cannabis offenses, and encourage business equity.These measures will help to undo the harm done and right the injustice of the past.

“The law dedicates 40% of the state tax revenue to community reinvestment grants targeted to disadvantaged neighborhoods. An additional 40% will be allocated towards funding public schools. This new law will also automatically expunge past convictions for low-level cannabis offenses, helping repair some of the damage done by the War on Drugs and relieving many people of the stigma associated with a drug conviction. 

“As we worked on this legislation, keeping our families out of harm’s way was a top priority, and we took extreme care to ensure safety measures are in place. While studies have found no correlation between marijuana legalization and an increase in traffic fatalities or violent crime rates[1], New Yorkers who drive under the influence will face similar penalties as existing DWI/DWAI offenses and a chemical test can be requested if an arresting officer has reason to believe someone is driving under its influence. Additionally, we included provisions for a controlled research study to develop new technology for roadside testing. The law also allocates 20% of the state tax revenue to fund drug treatment as well as an education and awareness campaign to help ensure people who choose to use marijuana, do so responsibly.

“This is an exciting day for New York as we take huge steps to repair the regressive policies of the past and make smart investments in a better and more equitable future.”