Black lawmakers in New York are blocking a push to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, saying that they plan to keep it up unless people of color are guaranteed a share of the potentially $3 billion industry.
According to The New York Times, these lawmakers are worried that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to legalize weed “could perpetuate the racial inequality fostered under current drug laws.”
“I haven’t seen anyone do it correctly,” Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the first black woman to serve as Assembly majority leader, said of legalization.
“They thought we were going to trust that at the end of the day, these communities would be invested in. But that’s not something I want to trust,” she continued. “If it’s not required in the statute, then it won’t happen.”
These lawmakers are looking for investments in job training programs and minority entrepreneurs. According to a recent report from cannabis industry analysts Arcview Market Research, the legal marijuana market is expected to generate $39.6 billion in overall economic impact by 2021. Ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, and none ensured that minority communities would share in any economic windfall of legalization.
This economic boom in the industry has largely benefitted white men, who are currently dominating it.
“Some people exploit the social justice piece of legalization,” said Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute and a chief strategist for We Rise to Legalize, a coalition of advocacy groups.
“You can’t talk to me about justice and not talk to me about economics. They are inextricably joined.”