Coming one week before a joint legislative hearing on tax-related proposals in New York's budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted some of his amended recreational marijuana proposal, including:
- Allowing cannabis products to be delivered (like how food is ordered from Grubhub)
- Reducing the criminal sale, of up to 16 ounces marijuana, to someone under 21, would become a misdemeanor
"New York took the right step back in June for decriminalizing because overall the Black and Brown communities were almost four times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated," said Thomas Kim, president and CEO of Community Action Organization of WNY (CAO), which supports poor and low-income communities.
Kim says though the state did decriminalized marijuana, more needs to be done if people under 21 are caught with more than 16 ounces of marijuana. That will still remain a felony.
"We don't want to get back into, ‘the law is 21 and under, so you know what, you're going to get arrested and get into the criminal system.’ What services can we provide besides criminalizing," he added.
The amended marijuana proposal also includes $100 million in revenue to go to a social equity fund, which would assist nonprofit groups that provide services like job support, mental health services, and adult education.
"Money is coming in through taxation, sales and so on, but the $100 million and $50 million is stagnant," said Kim.
Kim says the programs are a good idea, but believes that a good portion of revenue needs to be reinvested in areas like Buffalo.
"Revenue that's generation from the taxation should be focused towards the communities that are disproportionately affected during this period, in terms of Black and Brown communities. Those with poor, impoverished communities, that's where the funds need to go into," he said.
Time is ticking, as New York state legislators will vote to finalize the budget in April.