Albany, NY— In response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to legalize marijuana in New York, Stanley Fritz, Political Director of Citizen Action of New York, released the following statement:

“Any plan to legalize marijuana for recreational use in New York must be rooted in racial and economic justice. For decades, Black and Latinx communities have been targeted by the prison industrial complex and disproportionately criminalized for marijuana. It was only recently that New York further decriminalized small possession to a violation resulting in a civil fine. However, fines still perpetuate the same disproportionate targeting from law enforcement, and imposes a monetary burden on Black and Brown people. We must implement provisions that address the damages done by criminalization and its collateral consequences.

“A truly progressive proposal centers the voices of victims of mass incarceration. That means expunging all marijuana arrest records and reinvesting cannabis tax revenue back into communities that have been systematically marginalized by America’s war on drugs. The same Black and Brown communities experiencing disparate health and economic outcomes during this pandemic.

“New York needs a diverse and equitable cannabis industry, one that provides education and substance use treatment in underserved communities, and helps small, Black-owned businesses thrive. We look forward to working with the Start SMART NY Coalition, the Governor and elected officials to pass marijuana reform that will begin to repair towards a more just system, and allow New York to lead the nation on comprehensive reform.”