Most – however not all – Brooklyn state lawmakers are voting in favor of legalizing marijuana
Marijuana. (Photo by dankdepot / Flickr)
After years of political tussle, New York State legislature voted this week to legalize recreational marijuana use. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill Wednesday, less than a day after the Senate and State Assembly approved it.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act legalizes possession of marijuana under three ounces in the state and allows a regulated and taxed market to be established in April 2022. Anyone previously convicted of possessing less than three ounces of marijuana has the option of theirs To have criminal records deleted.
The law also requires that 40% of the tax revenue generated by legalization be reinvested in non-white communities that have had a disproportionately high number of marijuana arrests, and is designed to allow these communities to participate in the new, legal market.
The vast majority of Brooklyn state senators and MPs voted in favor of the bill – many viewed it, as Brooklyn State Senator Zellnor Myrie said yesterday, as “a major step towards restorative justice.”
But some Brooklyn lawmakers thought differently.
In the state Senate, Democratic Senator Simcha Felder was the only no-vote from Brooklyn. In the gathering, two Conservative Democrats from south Brooklyn, Senators William Colton and Simcha Eichenstein, voted against the legalization, as did the newly elected Republican Mike Tannousis.
In a statement explaining his vote, Tannousis, whose district includes part of Bay Ridge and parts of Staten Island, argued that the proposal “does not prevent people from going up while driving, especially those under the age of 21” .
He said he plans to put in place follow-up laws that would specifically prohibit driving while under the influence of marijuana. However, other lawmakers who voted in favor said the existing laws already contain provisions to ensure safe use.
“As a longtime road safety advocate, I wanted to ensure that the final bill included a comprehensive approach to deterring and punishing driving disorders,” Senator Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat from south Brooklyn, said in a statement after voting for the bill. “This bill will do just that by developing a first-of-its-kind saliva test and implementing it after approval by the NYS Department of Health.”
Another southern Brooklyn lawmaker raised concerns about the driving disability, despite voting for the law.
Congregation member Steven Cymbrowitz said it was “worrying that the definition of driving disorder under the influence of marijuana remains unsolved”.
Still, he called the bill “important piece of legislation that will use adult marijuana revenues to invest in education and bring justice to communities disproportionately and unjustifiably targeted by state and federal drug laws.”
Felder, Colton and Eichenstein did not immediately respond to inquiries from Bklyner.
Also of note was the approval of East New York State Senator Roxanne Persaud, who voted against earlier legalization in 2019.
“While I continue to worry about what legalization says to young people, there has been no discussion that black and brown New Yorkers have long been bearing the brunt of policies that other New Yorkers could ignore with impunity,” Persaud told Brooklyn Paper in a statement.
Elsewhere in the district, lawmakers were clearer in their support.
Progressive State Senator Jabari Brisport, a Democrat who represents parts of central Brooklyn, told New York State Public Radio that when he was 19 he was walking in Manhattan with a friend who was a plainclothes policeman for one wanted drug dealer stopped.
Brisport, who is black, said the officer pointed a gun in his face after asking the officer to show his badge and read his rights to his friend.
“A plainclothes officer almost shot me in the face for weed,” Brisport told NYS Public Radio’s Karen DeWitt. “How many budding state senators have accidentally fallen victim to the drug war?”
And MP Phara Souffrant Forrest – who, like Brisport, is a newly elected, DSA-backed Democratic legislature from downtown Brooklyn – simply tweeted “Legalize it!” with a gif of you-know-who.
Legalize it! pic.twitter.com/ZNHTf9nAH4
– Phara Suffering Forrest (@ phara4assembly) March 31, 2021