The enforcement of marijuana prohibition has devastated communities across New York State, primarily those of color and low-income communities. It has saddled hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records that yield significant collateral consequences for them—and their families, including limited access to housing, employment, and education opportunities. Marijuana prohibition has also been a justification for a drastic increase in policing activities in certain communities. This disproportionate enforcement has substantially eroded police and community relationships. Ending prohibition is the SMART choice for communities because it will alleviate one of the biggest causes of negative interactions with law enforcement. It will also provide an opportunity, due to the revenue it will generate, for the communities that have been most devastated to start to repair the harms of the drug war.
While the current illicit market is composed of people representing all populations, people of color have been the specific target of efforts to enforce prohibition. Regulating this industry with provisions to ensure diversity in licensing and employment represents a crucial first step toward repairing the harms of the drug war and alleviating the disproportionate burden that communities of color have borne as a result. Ending prohibition is SMART for racial justice because it will combat the hyper-criminalization of communities of color and provide new opportunities for social and economic advancement.
Creating a system to tax and regulate marijuana use by adults over the age of 21 is a sound economic investment for the state of New York. In the states with existing regulated markets, previously static economies have experienced the emergence of a new small business boom that has been coupled with technological advances that will benefit a variety of industries. Additionally, legalization presents an opportunity for New York’s agrarian community to foster the development of a new crop that is sustainable, resilient, and widely consumed. Similar to the rise of New York’s craft wine and beer industries, a regulated marijuana market could also provide opportunities for small businesses in small towns across the state to cultivate a business model that is not reliant on access to an exorbitant amount of capital but is instead dependent on local resources as well as their own ingenuity and creativity. Ending prohibition is the SMART choice for New York’s economy because our state is uniquely positioned to reap the financial benefits of reducing the cost of enforcement while also capitalizing on the diversity of our landscape.