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Monday, February 6, 2023

Albany may consider compensating residents affected by marijuana laws

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Albany – New Joint Council Proposal Calls for Proceeds from Recreational marijuana sales in the city to be used as reparations to communities of color affected by the war on drugs.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Gabriella Romero and Tenth Ward Councilwoman Owusu Anani want to create a nine-member committee to create a series of recommendations for the city and joint council to consider retail marijuana expected to begin in the near future. The recommendations, which will not be legally binding, will also recommend who should receive compensation, the amount they should receive and what form the compensation takes.

The decree was modeled on a similar nationwide proposal that was passed by the assembly.

“I hope to go one step further,” Romero said. “Why isn’t Albany up front?”

The commission will also be tasked with examining federal, state and local policies that have criminalized residents in communities of color that have been involved in and disproportionately affected the sale of marijuana.

Annan said he views future revenue as a way for the city to transform the economies of its poorest neighborhoods. While the committee will make recommendations, Annan said he can be seen suggesting programs that improve small business and home ownership opportunities.

“I think for this city to move forward, it is our duty to lift people out of poverty,” he said.

The committee will submit a report within six months of its establishment. They will not be paid for their work.

Mayor Cathy Sheehan and the Joint Board and community organizations, including the Center for Law and Justice, and A Village Inc. , and the NAACP, appointed residents to the committee, according to the bill.

Council members said that the community organizations’ appointment of committee members would give the city a better sense of not only the effects of marijuana decriminalization on the city but also how the revenue could best be used to repair the damage.

Romero said the legislation is still undergoing revisions before it is expected to be introduced next month.

The data shows that black and brown populations have long been disproportionately affected by enforcing laws against the sale and use of marijuana.

2020 Times Union Check City Police Data It showed that over the course of one year, 97 percent of people accused of marijuana offenses were black. Meanwhile, surveys have shown that blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates.

The idea of ​​using revenue from recreational marijuana sales as compensation is not new. In 2021, Evanston, Illinois, voted to distribute $10 million over the next 10 years to eligible black families. Each eligible family will receive $25,000 for home repairs, down payments on the property, and interest or late fines on property in the city.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke suggested that cannabis tax revenue could be used to pay ex-prisoners money directly through the Drug War Justice Grant program during his 2020 presidential campaign. The New York Civil Liberties Union expressed support for channeling the economic benefits of legal marijuana sales to those affected by its decriminalization.

Using sales tax returns to repair harm to minorities affected by the unequal application of marijuana laws is also in line with state legislation that legalized recreational marijuana use. The legislation calls for millions of tax revenue to be invested each year in communities affected by racially unequal policing on drugs. The state also said residents affected by the decriminalization of marijuana would be among the first to obtain a conditional license to sell recreational marijuana.

The city is working to create a separate committee for city residents that will be tasked with setting cannabis regulations in the city, including rules for dispensaries and on-site consumption. The deadline for submission of applications to the committee was 15 June; The city has yet to announce who is on the committee.


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