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LEGAL CANNABIS = SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR BIPOC COMMUNITIES

As of March 31st, New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana in America. Assembly Majority Leader, Crystal Peoples-Stokes who was one of the two main sponsors behind the new legislation and fought for seven years for the bill's passage joins us to discuss the social justice that legal pot can bring to communities.

AIRED: April 08, 2021 | 0:12:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

AFTER A YEARS-LONG SAGA, LEGAL

POT IS NOW A REALITY IN NEW YORK

STATE.

ON MARCH 31st, GOVERNOR CUOMO

SIGNED INTO LAW A HISTORIC BILL

THAT MAKES NEW YORK THE 15th

STATE TO LEGALIZE RECREATIONAL

MARIJUANA.

NEW YORK'S PATH TO LEGALIZATION

DIFFERS FROM OTHER STATES.

UNDER THE NEW LAW 40% OF THE

REVENUE WILL BE STEERED TOWARD

MINORITY COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE

BEEN HISTORICALLY NEGATIVELY

IMPACTED BY THE WAR ON DRUGS.

WITH THE ESTIMATED TAX REVENUE

AT $350 MILLION A YEAR, THAT

COULD MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN

THOSE COMMUNITIES.

STILL, IT COULD TAKE MANY MONTHS

IF NOT LONGER FOR NEW YORKERS TO

SEE THE FIRST LEGAL SALES OF

MARIJUANA AS THE SYSTEM IS SET

UP.

JOINING US IS ASSEMBLY MAJORITY

LEADER CRYSTAL PEOPLES-STOKES.

SHE FOUGHT LONG AND HARD FOR THE

PASSAGE OF THE BILL AS WELL AS

THE SOCIAL JUSTICE PROVISIONS

THAT IT INCLUDES.

WELCOME.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

IT'S MY PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

IT'S A GREAT TOPIC.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

I THINK ONE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE

HAVE BEEN CLOSELY FOLLOWING AND

WAITING FOR.

FIRST, I WANT YOU TO TALK TO US

ABOUT HOW NEW YORK'S

LEGALIZATION IS DIFFERENT FROM

OTHER STATES.

>> IF YOU THINK ABOUT THE OTHER

14 STATES, THE PRINCIPAL REASON

WHY THEY WANTED TO LEGALIZE

MARIJUANA WAS TO GET ACCESS TO

THE REVENUE.

IN NEW YORK CITY WE WANT TO BE

INTENTIONAL ABOUT THE EQUITY

BECAUSE THE MULTIPLE GENERATIONS

OF OUR PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN

INCARCERATED OVER DECADES HAS

IMPACTED THE COMMUNITIES WHERE

OUR PEOPLE LIVE IS JUST

UNPRECEDENTED.

THEY HAVE PREDATORY BUSINESSES

AND THE INFRASTRUCTURE IS IN

POOR SHAPE, THE HOUSES ARE IN

BLIGHTED CONDITION.

THE CHILDREN NEED SO, SO, SO

MUCH.

WE LOOKED AT IT AS AN

OPPORTUNITY TO IDENTIFY AND GET

RESOURCES THAT CAN BE

REINVESTING IN THE LIVES OF

THESE PEOPLE AND THEIR

COMMUNITIES.

WE TACK AN EQUITY PERSPECTIVE

FIRST AND A REVENUE PERSPECTIVE

SECOND.

EQUITY NOT ONLY PLAYS OUT IN THE

40% REIMBURSEMENT INTO THE

COMMUNITIES, BUT IT ALSO PLAYS

OUT AS A COMMITMENT TO A GOAL OF

50% EQUITY BUSINESSES FOR PEOPLE

OF COLOR THAT HAD BEEN

DISENFRANCHISED AS A RESULT OF

MASS INCARCERATION, DISABLED

VETERANS AND DISTRESSED FARMERS.

>> WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT

EQUITY INCLUS ION FOR BUSINESSE

WE HAVE HEARD OTHER STATES WILL

ALLOW THE FIRST LICENSES TO GOO

TO MINORITY OR WOMEN OWNED

BUSINESSES.

I'M WONDERING HOW IS THAT

ENFORCED BECAUSE SO MANY OF THE

NOW SOCIAL ILLS THAT PLAGUE

HISTOR

HISTORICALLY WORKING CLASS POOR

IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LATINO

COMMUNITIES ARE MULTILAYERED AND

THERE'S SO MANY DIFFERENT

ASPECTS OF THINGS THAT NEED TO

BE ADDRESSED AND CHANGED.

CAN THIS BILL REALLY GET THAT

TRAIN GOING, IF YOU WILL?

>> I THINK SO.

THERE'S A BRAND NEW AGENCY FOR

THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

THERE'S A FIVE-MEMBER BOARD,

THREE OF WHICH THE GOVERNOR

RECOMMENDS AND THE SENATE

RECOMMENDS A MEMBERER AS WELL.

THERE'S ALSO AN ADVISORY BOARD

AND A CHIEF EQUITY OFFICER,

WHOSE JOB IT WILL BE TO MAKE

SURE THAT THE EQUITY GOES AS

LAID OUT IN LEGISLATION ACTUALLY

HAPPENS.

THE ADVISORY BOARD ARE PEOPLE

WHO WILL FOCUS FROM A REGIONAL

PERSPECTIVE.

THEIR FOCUS WILL BE ON HOW DO

YOU GET IN CONTACT WITH PEOPLE

WHO ARE INTERESTED IN ANY OF

THESE EQUITY OPPORTUNITIES, HOW

DO YOU STAY IN CONTACT, HOW DO

YOU HELP THEM GET READY AND MAKE

SURE THEY GET ACCESS TO THE

RESOURCES LAID OUT FOR THEM.

IT'S REAL CLEAR THAT THIS

ADVISORY BOARD IS GOING TO BE

THE KEY, BECAUSE THEY'RE GOING

TO BE THE ONES TO MAKE SURE THAT

THE EQUITY GOALS GET FOLLOWED.

13-MEMBER BOARD, SEVEN FROM THE

GOVERNOR, THREE FROM THE

ASSEMBLY AND TWO FROM THE

SENATE.

NORMALLY WHEN STATE AGENCIES GET

SET UP, IT'S JUST THE EXECUTIVE

BRANCH THAT MANAGES.

NOW WE'RE INCLUDING THE

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH TO BE PART OF

THE MANAGING AS WELL.

WE'RE THE ONES WHO ARE CLOSER TO

THE PEOPLE, SO WE KNOW AND HEAR

ON A REGULAR BASIS WHAT THEIR

NEEDS ARE.

THEY CANNOT BE OVERLOOKED

BECAUSE WE'RE AT THE TABLE IN

EVERY AREA OF THE OFFICE OF

CANNABIS MANAGEMENT.

>> I KNOW THE LEGISLATION HAS

THE INTENTION OF ADDRESSING THE

HARM CREATED BY THE WAR ON

DRUGS.

I KNOW THERE'S A PLAN TO EXPUNGE

RECORDS, BUT I'M WONDERING HOW

DOES THAT TRICKLE DOWN TO

POLICING IF THERE'S GOING TO BE

A TIME IT'S GOING TO TAKE FOR

THE LICENSES TO GET ISSUED, THE

SYSTEM TO GET SET UP.

DOES THAT ALSO MEAN THAT THE

CHANGES IN POLICING WILL ALSO

TAKE TIME, OR WILL THOSE BE MORE

IMMEDIATE WHERE MARIJUANA ISN'T

A REASON TO STOP AND SEARCH

SOMEONE?

>> ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE

IMMEDIATE.

A LOT OF POLICE DEPARTMENTS

INCLUDING MY OWN IN BUFFALO HAVE

ALREADY SENT OUT MEMOS TO THE

OFFICERS OF HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN

DO AND HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN'T DO

AS A RESULT OF THIS LEGISLATION

THAT WAS PASSED.

YOU CANNOT SMOKE MARIJUANA IN

YOUR CAR AND YOU CANNOT HAVE

PASSENGERS SMOKING MARIJUANA

MUCH LIKE YOU CANNOT HAVE AN

OPEN CONTAINER OF ALCOHOL IN

YOUR CAR WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING.

IT'S GOING TO MIRROR THE

PROHIBITION OF ALCOHOL WHEN THAT

FLIPPED.

OFFICERS ARE NOW GETTING THE

TRAINING THEY NEED SO THEY

UNDERSTAND.

QUITE HONESTLY, RESPONSIBLE

ADULT CITIZENS SHOULD BE

UNDERSTANDING THE LAW THEMSELVES

TOO.

A LOT OF MY COLLEAGUES AND I

SPENT TIME TALKING TO OUR PEOPLE

ABOUT HERE'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS.

IT DOESN'T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO

WALK DOWN THE STREET ANYWHERE

SMOKING MARIJUANA AS IF WE'RE IN

THE WILD, WILD WEST.

IT SAYS IF YOU'RE A RESPONSIBLE

21-YEAR-OLD, YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO

HAVE 3 OUNCES OF MARIJUANA IN

YOUR POSSESSION.

NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE, YOU

CANNOT BE SMOKING IT IN A PLACE

WHERE SMOKING IS ALREADY NOT

ALLOWED.

IT'S GOING TO FOLLOW THE CLEAN

AIR LAW.

MOST BEACHES IN NEW YORK YOU

CAN'T SMOKE CIGARETTES, SO YOU

WON'T BE ABLE TO SMOKE MARIJUANA

THERE EITHER.

THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT

HAPPEN DAY ONE AND THAT IS ONE

OF THEM, THAT YOU ACTUALLY CAN

HAVE THAT THREE OUNCES.

THE OTHER THING THAT HAPPENS DAY

ONE IS THE OFFICE OF JUDGE

SERVICES WILL BEGIN LOOKING

THROUGH THEIR RECORDS AND BEGIN

IDENTIFYING PEOPLE WHO WERE

CONVICTS OF 3 OUNCES OR LESS AND

EXPUNGING THEIR RECORDS,

AUTOMATICALLY GETTING RID OF

THEM.

ALSO LOOKING FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE

STILL IN THE SYSTEM WHO MAY BE

STILL INCARCERATED AND MOVING TO

GET THEM VACATED, BECAUSE NOW

THEY SHOULD NO LONGER BE

INCARCERATED BASED ON HAVING 3

OUNCES OR LESS.

THOSE THINGS HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY.

IN MY DISTRICT ON THIS COMING

SATURDAY WE HAVE A CLINIC EVERY

LEGAL AGENCY IN THE WESTERN NEW

YORK AREA IS PARTICIPATING.

ATTOR

ATTORNEYS ARE GOING TO GET

CREDITS FOR BEING THERE TALKING

TO PEOPLE THAT COME IN AND WANT

TO UNDERSTAND THIS EXPUNGEMENT

PROCESS.

THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE TO DO FOR

OUR PEOPLE NOW.

YES, THE STATE AGENCY HAS SOME

RESPONSIBILITIES, BUT AS

LEGISLATURES WE HAVE SOME

RESPONSIBILITIES TO MAKE SURE WE

GET THE INFORMATION TO THEM IN

THE RIGHT WAY SO THEY CAN TAKE

ADVANTAGE OF IT.

>> WELL, THAT DEFINITELY ANSWERS

WHAT WAS GOING TO BE MY

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION.

DOWN IN NEW YORK CITY, OUR

POLICE COMMISSIONER DER MOTT

SHEA HAD INDICATED HE WAS

WORRIED ABOUT UNINTENDED

CONSEQUENCES FROM SMOKING IN

PUBLIC PLACES.

BASED ON WHAT YOU'RE SAYING,

THAT'S NOT PART OF THE

LEGISLATION.

THAT DOES NOT BECOME SLLEGAL.

SO THAT MAKES THE CONCER THAT

HE VOICED AT LEAST PRIOR TO

TODAY NOT AN ISSUE, AM I

CORRECT?

>> RIGHT.

ALL OF THE CLEAN AIR LAWS AND

REGULATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN PUT

IN PLACE FOR THE LAST TEN YEARS

ABOUT CIGARETTE SMOKING, THEY

APPLY TO MARIJUANA.

I'M NOT SURE IF THE POLICE

COMMISSIONER HAS HAD AN

OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A LOOK AT IT

YET, BUT I DO KNOW THERE ARE

SOME VERY SKILLED PEOPLE ON THIS

ISSUE IN NEW YORK CITY WHO I'M

SURE COULD PASS IT ONTO HIM SO

THAT HE COULD UNDERSTAND.

>> FOR CLARIFICATION.

BUT I ALSO WANTED TO JUST TALK

ABOUT THE TIMING OF THIS

LEGISLATION.

NOW, THIS IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE

BEEN WORKING ON AND PUSHING FOR

FOR YEARS AND YEARS.

HOWEVER, GOVERNOR CUOMO, WHO HAD

PREVIOUSLY BEEN A ROADBLOCK TO

THIS LEGISLATION, FINALLY

DECIDED TO SIGN IT.

FIRST, I WANT TO GET YOUR TAKE

ON HIS DECISION TO DO IT.

BUT SECOND OF ALL, I THINK THE

TIMING OF HIS DECISION IS ALSO

WORTH NOTING.

>> WELL, YOU'RE ACCURATE THAT HE

HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN A SUPPORTER.

AS A MATTER OF FACT, HE FOUGHT

TOOTH AND NAIL THE MEDICAL

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION PROCESS

THAT WE WENT THROUGH FIVE YEARS

AGO.

BUT IN THE LAST THREE YEARS HE

ACTUALLY PUT HIS VERSION

LEGALIZING ADULT USE MARIJUANA

IN HIS BUDGET.

SO HE WAS THERE IN TERMS OF

LEGALIZATION.

WHAT HE WASN'T THERE IS THE

TERMS OF HOW TO RESOURCE.

HE WANTED ALL THE RESOURCES TO

GO INTO THE EXISTING CENTRAL

BUDGET AND TO BE DETERMINED

BASED ON THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF

GOVERNMENT.

I UNDERSTAND THAT'S WHY THAT'S

WHAT EXECUTIVES DO.

THEY DO WANT TO CONTROL ALL THE

PURSE

PURSESTRINGS.

I GET IT.

BUT NO ONE SUFFERED LIKE BLACK

PEOPLE DID UNDER THIS MASS

INCARCERATION AND THIS THREE

STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT.

NOBODY SUFFERED LIKE THAT.

SO THERE SHOULD BE OPPORTUNITY

FOR US.

AGAIN, WE INVEST IN OURSELVES.

I THINK THAT HAPPENED MORE THAN

ANYTHING, A LOT OF PEOPLE WANT

TO ATTRIBUTE THIS TO THE ISSUES

THAT HE'S HAVING NOW WITH BEING

ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT,

NURSING HOME ISSUES.

I DON'T THINK THAT HAS ANYTHING

TO DO WITH IT.

NOW, THIS IS JUST ME.

I THINK IT HAS A LOT TO DO WITH

THE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD.

PEOPLE ACROSS THE WORLD SAW THAT

RACISM IS REAL AND IT'S BUILT

INTO THE SYSTEMS THAT ARE

SUPPOSED TO SERVE PEOPLE.

JUXTAPOSE THAT TO THE STRUCTURE

DEFICIENCIES IN THE LIVES OF

BLACK PEOPLE IN THE STATE OF NEW

YORK INVEAS IT RELATES TO COVID.

EVERY SYSTEM THAT WE OPERATE

HERE IS OPERATING FROM A ARABLE

PERSPECTIVE.

I THINK THAT WAS EYE OPENING FOR

NOT JUST THE GOVERNOR BUT A LOT

OF PEOPLE ACROSS THE STATE OF

NEW YORK.

>> ASSEMBLY MAJORITY LEADER

CRYSTAL PEOPLES-STOKES,

UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE COME TO

THE END OF OUR TIME TOGETHER.

I COULD CONTINUE TO TALK TO YOU

ABOUT THIS AND I HOPE WE GET

ANOTHER CHANCE TO DO SO.

PLEASE COME BACK AND JOIN US.

>> I'LL BE HAPPY TO.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

HAVE A GREAT DAY AND STAY

BLESSED.

>> YOU TOO.


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