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Cuomo Criticized for Putting Tax Revenue Above Criminal Justice in New York Cannabis Legalization Plan

Cuomo Criticized for Putting Tax Revenue Above Criminal Justice in New York Cannabis Legalization Plan

New York is on the precipice of completing a deal that would usher legal marijuana into the state. Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo (D) expressed that he and the state Legislators were “very close” to reaching an agreement.

For the third year in a row, the governor has attempted to pass marijuana reform legislation as part of his executive budget. Past efforts at reform from the gubernatorial office have largely been unsuccessful due to disagreements with the more progressive wing of Cuomo’s own party. 

This time, however, negotiations will take place outside of the budget process. 

Cuomo Criticized For Putting Tax Revenue Above Criminal Justice


Cuomo, who is currently facing a growing number of calls to resign amidst an onslaught of sexual harassment allegations, has been criticized in the past by drug policy reform advocates for pushing a legalization plan that prioritizes maximizing state revenue over reinvesting in the minority communities most victimized by marijuana prohibition. 

In response, the governor’s office has released a proposal claiming that some funds from cannabis tax revenue may be used for minority community reinvestment purposes but doesn’t guarantee it. “The devil is in the details,” According to Melissa Moore, the New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. Moore says,


“The governor’s proposal has included some of the language from the MRTA about what the community grants reinvestment fund could be used for, but it hasn’t actually had the lockbox guarantee around funds going to communities.”

There have also been concerns that Cuomo’s plan, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (CRTA), won’t do enough to prevent the future criminalization of cannabis users. Under the CRTA plan, possession of marijuana purchased from an unlicensed source would remain a misdemeanor offense with potential jail time. In contrast, the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) proposed by state legislators would make possession of illicit cannabis up to two pounds of flower or 4.5 ounces of concentrate a violation only punishable with a fine. 

While the MRTA allows for six marijuana plants to be grown per household, The CRTA prohibits residents of the state from cultivating any cannabis plants inside their own homes, severely limiting access to consumers who don’t want to purchase from state-licensed dispensaries. 

Growing Support For MRTA

NORML, one of the largest cannabis advocacy lobbies in the country, rated both legalization plans at the beginning of this month. The New York NORML Chapter found that “[The] MRTA is far superior to the CRTA,” and gave the legislator’s plan an A- grade while only giving Cuomo’s a C-.

A recent poll conducted by Consensus Strategies found that New Yorkers favor marijuana reform policy that more closely resembles the MRTA. 52% of those surveyed said that they preferred legislation allowing state residents to grow a limited amount of marijuana plants at home, and 51% supported license preferences for social equity applicants. 

In a Twitter statement on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) expressed his support for the legalization efforts taking place in the Big Apple. While he didn’t mention Cuomo by name, he did explicitly show his support for the MRTA plan saying,

“We must ensure that tax dollars flow to communities harmed by over-criminalization; small entrepreneurs and directly impacted people have an opportunity to enter the market through strong social equity provisions; marijuana is not used as pretext for criminalizing Black and Brown people, especially youth; and that individuals weighed down by past criminal convictions are given an opportunity to move on as productive members of society.”

Senator Schumer went on to thank supporters of MRTA, specifically calling out legislators Crystal People-Stokes (D) and Liz Krueger (D)—the two legislators responsible for introducing the bill.

Currently, Senator People-Stokes is optimistic that the legislation will advance before April 1st.

New Congressional Bill Would Automatically Seal Marijuana Records

New Congressional Bill Would Automatically Seal Marijuana Records

People convicted of federal, nonviolent marijuana offenses or drug possession would have their records automatically sealed under a U.S. House bill introduced Tuesday.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) filed the bill—dubbed the Clean Slate Act—which stipulates that criminal records should be sealed exactly one year after a person serves out their sentence, so long as they don’t commit crimes again.

Twenty other representatives have already cosponsored the legislation, including Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

From the bill:

“At the time of sentencing of a covered individual for a conviction pursuant to section 404 of the Controlled Substances Act or of any Federal nonviolent offense involving marijuana, the court shall enter an order that each record and portion thereof that relates to the offense shall be sealed automatically on the date that is one year after the covered individual fulfills each requirement of the sentence, except that such record shall not be sealed if the individual has been convicted of a subsequent criminal offense.”

The Clean Slate Act is the latest in a string of bills that aim to reform federal drug laws, with a particular emphasis on cannabis.

Though not quite as wide-ranging as bills such as the Marijuana Justice Act introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with a companion House bill from Lee, the primary objective is similar: mitigate the long-term harms of the federal drug war by giving nonviolent offenders a second chance.

As more states have moved to legalize, marijuana-related convictions have fallen demonstrably at the federal level, according to a United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) report released in June. That said, drug crimes still account for the bulk of the federal caseload.

In 2017, about 1,300 federal drug convictions were for “the simple possession of a drug” alone.

If this bill passes, eligible individuals who have previously served out their sentence would be able to submit a petition to a U.S. district court in order to get their records cleaned.

The bill also requires district courts to keep track of things like how many petitions are granted or rejected—information that would be included in a public report.

While a growing majority of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal, an even larger percentage of the population (73 percent) believes that criminal records should be automatically sealed for individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses, according to a 2018 report from the Center for American Progress.

Via Center for American Progress

“The Clean Slate Act is important legislation that would ease the burden felt by those unjustly suffering the collateral consequences resulting from cannabis prohibition,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment.

“Individuals saddled with a marijuana possession conviction are disproportionately either people of color or at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, and it is essential that they are not held back from being able to obtain employment, housing, access to higher education, and all of the other necessities of being an active participant in their community. Having been arrested for mere marijuana possession does not make one a bad person, but rather a victim of a cruel public policy.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

New Congressional Bill Would Automatically Seal Marijuana Records

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