N.Y. Lawmakers Legalize Pot, Hoping To Avoid Racial Pitfalls Of Decriminalization – KNPR

Democrats who dominate New York state politics pushed through a marijuana legalization measure Tuesday that backers say will expunge the felony drug records of tens of thousands of people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled in a statement he will sign the measure, saying it will bring “justice for long-marginalized communities.”

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who championed the measure for years, told NPR her first goal was to keep people in her Buffalo, N.Y. community out of prison.

“It’s been horrible,” she said. “This specific war on drugs dismantled a huge chunk of our population.”

Peoples-Stokes, who serves as the Assembly majority leader in Albany, said racially biased drug arrests have ravaged minority neighborhoods across the state for decades.

A study of pot busts made last year by the NYPD found 94% of those arrested were Black or Hispanic.

According to Peoples-Stokes, those policies, which have resulted in felony records for so many people, have ruined lives and devastated communities.

“It’s very difficult to get access to federal dollars to go to school. It’s very difficult to get a job,” she said.

Support comes from

Peoples-Stokes’ measure, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger from Manhattan, will end most marijuana arrests.

It also commits to investing 40% of New York’s future marijuana tax revenues in neighborhoods harmed by high rates of drug arrests.

Legalization advances but marijuana arrests continue

Experts say pot legalization is happening in New York at a moment when the country’s laws are deeply fractured.

Marijuana is a booming legal business in more and more states — a total of 15 states and the District of Columbia have now taken the step.

But selling or possessing even small amounts of cannabis remains a federal crime. It’s also still illegal under the laws of most states.

“There is still what we would call

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