The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (“MRTA”) has passed in the Senate and Assembly, and is now heading over to Governor Cuomo to be signed into law.
Not only does this mean that we are nearing the finish line, the legislation (as it currently stands) – championed by Senator Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes – includes much of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws’ (NORML) decriminalization, social equity, and restorative justice elements that social justice advocates have been fighting for. The bill provides for personal cultivation, automatic expungement of past criminal records, on-site consumption, delivery, etc.
Empire State NORML is ecstatic that many of the policies we’ve been fighting for such as home cultivation, automatic vacatur, onsite consumption spaces, social equity funding, and protections against consumer discrimination.
“New York’s anticipated legalization of cannabis propels it again to a leadership role in the nation,” said David Holland, Executive & Legal Director, Empire State NORML. “Under the MRTA, once persecuted and criminalized people, cultures, and communities will be prioritized through job creation and investment opportunity to rebuild that which was so tragically torn apart by the false and failed War on Drugs. Cannabis is not only a valid and viable medicine but an industry built around it will help these people and communities heal as the State moves forward on a more equitable and enlightened path to progress.”
“For the past few years, cannabis legalization in New York has been an elusive fantasy to some, and for others, a tireless journey that began decades before a cannabis industry existed,” stated Ryan Lepore, Interim Executive Director of NYC NORML & Board Member of Empire State NORML. “Passing legislation that is representative of justice as opposed to solely its economic opportunity is undoubtedly a victory for both the New York and nationwide cannabis community. As the MRTA’s passage serves as a desirable starting point to legitimize existing consumers and legacy operators, we must continue to advocate and ensure our state’s incoming regulatory process truly provides regenerative, restorative, and equitable opportunities for our diverse legacy and consumer population.”
NYS is home to the largest market of cannabis consumers in the nation.
“We are excited and optimistic about the negotiations that have been reached thus far,” noted Mary Kruger, Executive Director, ROC NORML & Board Member of Empire State NORML. “The key components we’ve been fighting for – justice, equity, and reinvestment – are all intricately woven into the fabric of this legislation. We were never fighting for legalization at any means necessary – we were always fighting for smart legalization the protects consumers and begins to right the wrongs and harms of marijuana prohibition, and this bill does just that. The bill isn’t perfect and there will always be work for us to do when fighting for marijuana justice and consumer rights, but we are happy with the negotiations so far and now we need our leaders to hold the line and get this bill passed.”
If/when the bill is passed, NORML activists said that they will work with Office of Cannabis Management (“OCM”) to ensure that people’s rights are met moving forward, and that the letter of the law will be upheld.
“The fight for marijuana justice in New York has been led by dedicated and tireless social justice warriors, patients, and consumer advocates,” added Penelope Hamilton Crescibene, Acting Executive Director of WNY NORML. “In the past few years, advocates have had to deal with the pressure and negotiations of proposed legislation other than the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). It became quickly clear that the dire need for just, equitable, inclusive, diverse, and consumer-centered legislation could only be found through the MRTA sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Kruger and was worth waiting for. This is a solid foundation for which we, as advocates, must hold the state accountable for and continue to help shape. As we move forward, our local communities must have a voice in how the office of cannabis management carries out reinvestment, economic opportunities, and justice. Our work is never over but we will take this moment to celebrate a victory.”
If the bill is passed as is, this legislation can make New York a leader in the nation.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” expressed Troy Smit, Deputy Director of Empire State NORML & Founder of Long Island NORML. “It’s taken a great amount of work and perseverance by activists, patients, and consumers, to go from being the cannabis arrest capital of the world, to lead the world with a legalized market dedicated to equity, diversity, and inclusion. This might not be the perfect piece of legislation, but today, cannabis consumers can hold their heads high and smell the flowers. Senator Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes have laid the groundwork for marijuana justice and a consumer-centric industry. Now, it’s time for the Office of Cannabis Management to take up their torch and implement regulations that protect patient and consumer rights. In the words of our late Director, Doug Greene – Cannabis Excelsior!”
Lead image: Photo by Ramille Soares