New York’s cannabis legalization battle has come to an unfortunate end after lawmakers could not reach an agreement on key details in the final days of legislation. While hopes were high for the billion-dollar industry to bring jobs to minority communities and end decades of racial inequality in drug enforcement, time has simply run out, squashing hopes for cannabis and the benefits that legalization brings.
Although Democratic lawmakers had reported extensive efforts earlier this week to finalize negotiations, hesitation from more moderate lawmakers in the Senate, as well as continuous disagreement on industry regulation have put out that joint. This was a huge blow to the 55 percent of residents who voted ‘Yes’ to cannabis in a recent Siena Research Institute Poll, many of whom have held endless rallies and social media campaigns fighting for the flower.
“We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time.” expressed Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan in disappointment with Wednesday’s results. “Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives upended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measure before we inevitably legalize,” she continued.
In an effort to right their wrongs, state lawmakers have turned their attention to a backup plan to further decriminalize cannabis possession, updating the original 1977 decriminalization. Moves on this measure will ensue the creation of an expungement program for those charged with certain cannabis convictions, as well as efforts toward expanding the state’s medical cannabis laws.
However, many activists are opposing the passage of the alternative bill, citing it as a half-measure that nowhere near addresses the years of harm that cannabis law-enforcement has had on people of color. Senator Krueger has also expressed concern that the alternative bill could ease pressure on future legalization.
Unfortunately, legalization efforts will only become more challenging next year when state legislators go before voters for election. For now, let’s continue to fight for the power of the flower and hold our joints high in disapproval.