As a community organizer working to end prohibition in a just, inclusive, and equitable way I would like to offer a few counterpoints to the editorial, “Pump the brakes on pot.”
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was first introduced in 2013, it has gone through multiple iterations as most legislation does. What is unique is that the MRTA actively seeks to redress the harms marijuana prohibition has caused in communities of color through policy and community input.
Though the conversation has become mainstream lately as other states and Canada have legalized, I would hardly call this move “hasty.” Despite New York State having decriminalized possession in 1977; suspicion of marijuana possession is the impetus for in invasive and adversarial police presence in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods in Buffalo.
Although whites and blacks use marijuana at similar rates, nearly 80 percent of marijuana arrests in Buffalo and Erie county are people of color, decriminalization has not worked.
The MRTA, if signed into law would regulate and tax marijuana for adult use for individuals over the age of 21. Contrary to the prohibitionist’s stance, regulated marijuana would decrease access to minors since patrons would need to provide ID in order to purchase products.
The MRTA is not about promoting use of cannabis, it
about seeking justice for individuals, families, and communities that have suffered from this failed war on people.