ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren is answering questions about her plan to pay reparations to poor Black and brown residents. The money would come from revenue generated by legal marijuana sales — something state lawmakers reached a deal on this week.  

“The legalization of marijuana gives us a unique opportunity to right some wrongs,” said Warren at a City Hall news conference.

The dictionary defines “reparation” as the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money or otherwise helping those who’ve been wronged. Warren says in Rochester, the definition fits.

“Government and our policies and our procedures has disproportionally affected Black and brown people in our community,” she said. “We have an opportunity to make it right.”

Warren wants to use revenue from legalized marijuana to pay reparations to those residents. The mayor sent a letter to Ibero-American Action League members detailing the plan by creating a Universal Basic Income program, or a home ownership program. The mayor has formed a committee to look at specific details.

“How much monthly would a family of four in Rochester, New York need to basically pay all their bills and not be stressed?” said the mayor.

Similar programs are in place in Oakland, and the Chicago suburb of Evanston. Warren cited redlining — which kept Blacks out of certain neighborhoods — communities which were disinvested in, and drug laws which she says jailed a disproportionate number of minorities for what will now be legal.

“And I want to make it known that to me, the people that deserve the dollars the most, and deserve the investment the most are the communities that were most affected by drugs sales,” she said.

Half of Rochester children live in poverty. The majority are minorities. The ones the mayor says should now reap the benefits of a new source of income.

“Why not?” she asked. “When we think about the fact that we provide as government subsidies for rich people all the time. Why can't we provide a subsidy to make poor people less poor?”