Black Lawmakers Blocking Legal Marijuana in New York Over Inequality Concerns

March 13, 2019 AT 6:35 AM

By Vivian Wang and Jeffery C. Mays

Black lawmakers are blocking a push to legalize recreational marijuana in New York, warning that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal could perpetuate the racial inequality fostered under current drug laws.

The lawmakers say that unless people of color are guaranteed a share of the potentially $3 billion industry, there may be no legalization this year. They want to be assured that some of that money will go toward job training programs, and that minority entrepreneurs will receive licenses to cultivate or sell the marijuana.

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, and as lawmakers elsewhere consider their own laws, they seem intent on not repeating what they see as other states’ mistakes.

They say one misstep, in particular, stands out: None of the 10 states or Washington ensured that minority communities would share in any economic windfall of legalization — missing out on an opportunity to redress years of having a disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested on marijuana charges.

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