New York MPs and senators passed the bill on Tuesday that legalizes recreational marijuana use. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the proposal on Wednesday afternoon (31), making the state the 16th to decriminalize cannabis in the United States.
“This landmark legislation does justice to communities that have long been marginalized, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy and establish safeguards for the safety of the people,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York has a long history as the nation’s progressive capital, and this important legislation will carry that legacy.”
In the State Chamber, the bill was approved by 100 votes in favor and 49 against. In the Senate, there were 40 to 23. The Democratic Party, led by Cuomo and President Joe Biden, has a majority in both houses.
The Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act (MRTA) provides that over 21s can buy and cultivate the plant for their personal consumption. In addition, the state will remove the criminal records of those convicted of cannabis-related crimes and suspend fines for those arrested weighing up to 85 grams, the new individual possession limit.
The new law also establishes the creation of a tax on the legal trade of the substance, with a rate of 13%, of which 9% will go to a state fund, 3% to the municipality and 1% to the county where the sale was done. The government estimates that legalization in New York will generate approximately $ 350 million (2 billion reais) in annual tax revenue. A more comprehensive study by the New York Medicinal Cannabis Industry Association and consulting firm MPG provides even more expressive figures.
The state’s marijuana market is estimated to generate $ 1.2 billion (6.9 billion reais) in taxes in 2023. Four years later, the figure is expected to be $ 4.2 billion ( 24 billion reais)). Among other economic impacts, the study points out that the sector is expected to employ 20.9 thousand people by 2023 and 76 thousand by 2027, displacing during these years, respectively, 2.8 billion US dollars (16, 16 billion reais) and 10.1 billion US dollars (58.3 billion reais).
One of the main flags of the project is also to repair the damage done to the communities most affected by decades of the war on drugs. Historically, blacks and Hispanics in New York have become prime targets of anti-narcotics policies and disproportionately compared to approaches to whites.
According to New York Police data, 94.5% of those arrested in 2020 for crimes related to illegal possession of marijuana were not white. Blacks, who represent 24.3% of the city’s population, are 57% of those arrested. Racial disparity is lower among Latinos, who make up 29.1% of the total population and 35.7% of those incarcerated, but it is evident in the proportion of whites – 4.6% of those arrested for related offenses to marijuana, despite being 32.1% of New Yorkers.
For this reason, the bill foresees that millions of dollars of tax revenues from the marijuana sales sector will be reinvested in the communities formed by these minorities, and a considerable part of the licenses issued for the marketing of cannabis, reserved for entrepreneurs of this population group. .
Thus, according to the project, 40% of tax revenues from marijuana will be invested in communities formed by minorities, an additional 40% will be spent on public education and the remaining 20% will go to drug addiction treatment, prevention. and education. .
There is still no fixed date for the start of legal sales of marijuana in New York, but it is estimated that they will begin in 2022. The time is necessary for the authorities to define the rules of control of this market, including including regulation of wholesalers, distribution, cultivation and retail standards, and the creation of taxes.
In addition, the state will create an office to oversee the sector. This council will be composed of five members, three appointed by the governor and the other two by the House and the Senate.
For sociologist Nathália Oliveira, the new law has a symbolic and educational character because it is part of a movement in which the state recognizes the harmfulness of legislation that has disproportionately affected a part of the population.
“The new law involves historical re-reading of the process, criticism and presentation of measures that quickly correct the effects of this disproportionality,” said Oliveira, co-founder of the Black Initiative for a New Drug Policy, a Brazilian civil society. society organization that has been operating since 2015 in search of racial justice and reforms of the current drug policy.
According to the sociologist, an endorsement of this magnitude in New York opens up space for similar reforms in other American states and, most importantly, helps to set precedents when similar discussions come more strongly to Brazil – which imported the American model. adaptation, based on the logic of war.
Historian Dudu Ribeiro, coordinator of the Black Initiative, insists that the criminalization of marijuana use has always been associated with racist and eugenic policies. This thought has led Brazilian intellectuals to classify drugs as a kind of revenge for black people recently released from slavery.
In the United States, John Ehrlichmann, adviser to President Richard Nixon between 1969 and 1974, revealed years after the creation of the American model of war on drugs that the black population was a prime target.
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be against war or to be black, but by taking public opinion to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and criminalizing both severely. , we could destroy these communities, ”Ehrlichmann said in an interview published after your death.
For Ribeiro, therefore, historic redress is a fundamental element in changing drug policy, both inside and outside the United States, and must also include the potential for accountability of the ‘State for the damage caused and the construction of policies that balance the participation of the population. Regulated market for substances previously considered illegal.
“This transformation must be linked to a wide range of radical changes, whether in the public security system, or in the performance of the judiciary to provide conditions in fact, over the next decades, to overcome the dramatic conditions promoted in the name of the war on drugs, ”he assesses.
In the United States, the approval was signed by the entities. “We commend the New York Legislature and the tireless work of activists for their commitment to end cannabis prohibition through a social justice-centered approach,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.
“More than two-thirds of Americans think it’s time to end the ban, and this measure represents the most recent example of elected officials joining the chorus of support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana adult.”
According to a Siena College poll released this month, nearly 60% of voters in the state say they are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Among black voters, who constitute a significant part of the Democratic political base, the support rate for the measure stands at 71%.
“ Our movement has not only fought for the good of legalization, but has worked for years to draft legislation rooted in racial and economic justice, in an effort to repair the damage and, at the same time, establish a new standard for formulating anti-racist policies, with class and gender awareness, ”said Jawanza James Williams, director of the Vocal-NY organization.
For him, the approval of the bill shows “what democracy really looks like when the legislator allows progressive movements to lead to justice”. “This is a huge success for all New Yorkers, especially black and Latino survivors of the racist ban.”
The pro-marijuana lobby political group Norml estimates that the number of New Yorkers arrested each year for minor drug offenses is in the tens of thousands, most of them young, poor and non-white. “Legalizing marijuana is a racial and criminal justice imperative, and today’s vote is a critical step towards a more just system,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. .
“For a long time, non-whites have been disproportionately affected by an outdated and short-sighted marijuana ban, and it is high time to fix that,” he continued, adding that the decision was also an important step in the economy which will give an indispensable boost to communities devastated by the war on drugs and the Covid-19 “.