Land grab: Everyone wants a piece of New York’s marijuana tax revenue
Officials: Poor Brooklyn Neighborhoods Should Get Restitution Funds
Rival groups are putting in their bids now to get a chunk of an expected windfall in marijuana tax revenue, as New York state moves closer to legalizing cannabis for adult use.
Some Brooklyn officials are pushing for a “cannabis equity program” to benefit communities of color who have suffered from past disparities in marijuana enforcement.
Another group is eyeing this revenue to help fix the subway system — which the MTA estimates will need roughly $40 billion over the next ten years.
Others want some of these resources to go to women getting into the cannabis business.
The pot tax could bring in roughly $336 million annually for New York City and $436 for the state, according to the state Comptroller’s Office.
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer backs the idea of using the funds to correct historic injustices.
The city “has long targeted communities that are among the most economically insecure, resulting in damaged credit, loss of employment, housing, and more, “ he said in a statement on Thursday. “As we move towards creating a legal market that will generate billions of dollars, we have to ensure that we correct historic injustices and backwards policies of the past.”
Stringer wants the city to establish a NYC cannabis equity program, be inclusive when it issues pot licenses, and award funds “on a competitive basis” to poor neighborhoods with the highest proportion of marijuana-related arrests.
The Comptroller’s Office found Brownsville and Ocean Hill had the highest average marijuana-related arrest rate between 2010 and 2017, followed by East New York and Starrett City. His report correlated marijuana arrests with low income and credit scores, with Brownsville having both the highest arrest rate and lowest median credit score (598) in the city.
Pot Arrests Down, But Communities of Color Still Bearing the Brunt
Despite a decline in marijuana arrests since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, blacks and Latinos still made up a disproportionate number of those arrested for marijuana possession from 2014 – 2016, according to a report commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance.
“Above any other considerations, revenue from that industry must be used to revitalize the very communities of more color that have been targeted by these unjust policies for too long,” Councilmember Jumaane Williams (D- East Flatbush-Midwood) said in a statement on Friday. “No proposal can be put ahead of the people who have been victimized for decades by the criminalization of black and brown communities as a result of prohibition.”
Though the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has stopped persecuting violators for possession of a small amount of pot, it still prosecutes those caught smoking a joint in a public place, the office told WNYC.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) said at the 2018 Cannabis Summit in October that drug enforcement policy “disproportionately impacts young people of color” and harms the communities they came from.
“I believe that we need to create a robust and broad market for legal cannabis in New York state which provides for taxation and regulation and job creation and economic distribution of the advantages of a new business model in New York. But with heavy emphasis on making sure that the communities which faced the most harm from 50 years of bad prohibition for a policy are not left out in the cold,” she said.
The restitution theme was repeated throughout the Cannabis Summit, with one panel composed entirely of women hoping to help other women and minorities get a chunk of the market.
Panel member and Brooklyn resident Gia Morón, the executive VP of Women Grow, said she believes that cannabis could offer a model featuring women in leadership roles. “I’ve seen canna-curious women come to Women Grow and one year later they’re in business,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The opportunities for women are vast.”
But others want to use that money to fix the subways. City Council Speaker and possible 2021 mayoral candidate Corey Johnson is one of the, according to the New Your Times. Another is former speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday brought the idea up to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on his Friday morning radio show. The mayor said he needed a bit more time to consider how the money should be spent.
“We need to get the regulatory framework right from the beginning,” he told Lehrer. “There are real safety issues, real health issues, there’s huge issues of how we stop corporate America from taking over the marijuana industry in this state and doing exactly what the tobacco industry did, doing exactly what the pharmaceutical manufacturers did with opioids, and pushing a product and doing it in a very corporate manner with no regard to communities and no economic empowerment of communities. We – before we jump we have a chance to get this right and I’m going to be speaking to that in the coming weeks.”
He added, “All of that will come together April 1st,” the first day of the New York state fiscal year.