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LAS Backs Drive to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

The Legal Aid Society was pleased to hear of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewed interest in legalizing marijuana, but expressed concerns about where the money would go, as reported by NY1 News.

The Governor signaled a new effort to legalize recreational marijuana in New York, predicting a path forward through sticking points that have held up legislation in previous efforts. Citing a massive shortfall in state revenue, Cuomo extolled the financial potential for legal marijuana cultivation, an industry that may yield hundreds of millions of dollars annually for state coffers that have been depleted by the economically debilitating COVD-19 lockdowns.

While reform is welcome, attorneys at The Legal Aid Society are calling for Cuomo to ensure that underserved communities hit hardest by drug laws are compensated with the revenues harvested by any newly legalized marijuana industry. They point out that marijuana legalization is a social and racial justice issue, and any plans for the revenue that legalization generates should keep that in mind and include significant community reinvestment.

“The communities that are being…affected by COVID-19 are the same communities that have been affected by over-policing of marijuana,” said Emma Goodman, a staff attorney in the Special Litigation Unit of The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice.