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Albany may consider reparations for residents affected by marijuana laws July 2, 2022 - Times Union
ALBANY – A new Common Council proposal calls for revenues from recreational marijuana sales in the city to be used as reparations for communities of color harmed by the war on drugs.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Gabriella Romero and Tenth Ward Councilman Owusu Anane want to create a nine-member commission to create a series of recommendations for the city and Common Council to consider with the retail sale of marijuana expected to start in the near future. The recommendations, which would not be legally binding, would also recommend who should receive compensation, how much they should receive and what form the compensation takes.
The ordinance is modeled on a similar proposal at the state level that has passed the Assembly.
“I’m hoping to go one step further,” Romero said. “Why not have Albany at the forefront?”
The commission would also be tasked with studying federal, state and local policies that criminalized and disproportionately impacted residents in communities of color who were involved in the sale of marijuana.
Anane said he viewed the future revenues as a way for the city to change the economics of its poorest neighborhoods. While the commission would provide the recommendations, Anane said he could see it suggesting programs that improved small business opportunities and homeownership.
“I think for this city to move forward we have a duty to lift people out of poverty,” he said.
The commission would submit a report within six months of its creation. They would not be paid for their work.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan, the Common Council and community organizations, including the Center for Law and Justice, A Village Inc., and the NAACP, would all be tasked with appointing residents to the commission, according to the draft legislation.
The council members said having community organizations appoint commission members would give the city a better sense of not only the effects criminalization of marijuana had on the city but also how best to use the revenue to repair the damage.
Romero said the legislation was still undergoing revisions prior to its expected introduction next month.
Data shows that Black and brown residents have long been disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of laws against the sale and use of marijuana.
A 2020 Times Union examination of city police data showed that over one year, 97 percent of people charged with marijuana offenses were Black. Meanwhile, surveys have shown that Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates.
The idea of using revenue from recreational marijuana sales as reparations isn’t new. In 2021, Evanston, Ill., voted to distribute $10 million over the next 10 years to eligible Black households. Each qualifying household would receive $25,000 for home repairs, down payments on property, and interest or late penalties on property in the city.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke proposed cannabis tax revenue could be used to directly repay formerly incarcerated people through a new "Drug War Justice Grant" program during his 2020 presidential campaign. The New York Civil Liberties Union has voiced its support for directing the economic benefits of legalized marijuana sales to those harmed by its criminalization.
Using sales tax revenue to repair the harm to minority communities impacted by the uneven enforcement of marijuana laws is also in line with the state legislation that legalized recreational marijuana use. The legislation calls for millions in tax revenue to be invested each year in communities affected by racially disproportionate policing on drugs. The state has also said residents impacted by the criminalization of marijuana will be among the first to receive a conditional license to sell recreational marijuana.
The city is in the process of establishing a separate commission of city residents that will be charged with creating cannabis regulations in the city, including rules for dispensaries and on-site consumption. The deadline to apply for the committee was June 15; the city has not yet announced who is on the commission.
This is not right and I hate these bullshit narratives, this shit should not be RACE BASED. HOPE THAT IT WILL BE CHALLENGED. ANY reperative action, it should be based on the sole charges of being in possession of marijuana, and not be based on if your black or not. I look at this as an inherent counter racist tactic. Wheether the NAACP is behind it or whatever. A swath of different individuals have had their lifes ruined for cannabis, not just POC... I'm not a rasict person, but I dont stand for race based politics whether it favors a minority group or not. Its simply unfair to ALL the individuals that have had their life ruined. I dont think ill ever set foot in new york. But they set part of the legal precidents for the rest of our nation. I would never EVER set foot in the that state and Iam not republican nor dem. I just read a thing where they passed state laws and gun registration ordinances that made it to get a permit you have to "submit social media accounts for review" as part of the process. Possibly password? In the face of the most recent supreme court ruling. Our world is turn into a dystopian nightmare from highly polar political venues, and using POC as catalyst to move political agendas one way or the other in these political arenas. Many different walks of life have suffered at the hands of cannabis prohibition, I hope these fronts are legally challanged and protested in favor of a more widly fair approach to reperation or reintegration