A bill to legalize marijuana in New York is coming down to final negotiations, to get it passed with the state budget by April first. Now, a local group of marijuana advocates is getting ready for an 11th-hour push, and they have the full support of the Rochester City Council.
“It’s implementing an economic and social justice lens as part of the legislation,” said Mitchell Gruber, Rochester City Councilmember.
That’s what essentially detailed in a letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo signed by the entire Rochester City Council. It states that the enforcement laws pertaining to marijuana is not only antiquated but has been racially biased for decades.
“There’s some element of making sure people who have been charged marijuana possession have their records expunged but its also part of economic justice,” said Gruber.
Gruber said tax revenue funds should stay locally if this marijuana legislation is passed.
“What’s critical is that this does not go back into the overall state fund, but rather that it has particular focuses, and I think, we think as a council that it should go back into cities,” said Gruber.
Those in favor of this legislation say if counties or cities who opt out won’t reap the benefits, even though its residents would still be able to consume weed.
According to Roc NORML, tax revenue money could be used to bring communities out of poverty and have more funding for programs.
“It’s been whole communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the war on drugs,” said Steve VanDeWalle, Deputy Chief of Roc NORML. “ We have a lot of poverty, we have a lot of low-income communities in Rochester that we can now use this tax revenue and start pumping it back into these communities we can start rebuilding the city from the ground up.“
However, education advocates are urging New York lawmakers to leave the discussion of recreational marijuana out of the state budget process.
“Seeking new sources of revenue, but every time they seem to do that, they don’t do the planning necessary to put really good public policies in place to keep whatever vice they’ve decided to legalize, out of the hands of kids,” said David Little, Executive Director for Rural Schools Assn. Of New York State.
Roc NORML is heading to Albany tomorrow morning. Transportation & lunch are included for those who wish to ride down with the group. They’re meeting at 5:30 a.m. at House of Mercy, 285 Ormond St. Wednesday to board the bus.