New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, Now The Bronx Must Get Reparations

After the New York State Assembly and Senate passed the legalization of recreational marijuana yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation into law today transforming New York into the 15th state to do so.

While we’re still some time away before shops for recreational usage pop up, New York State residents can now toke up in public where smoking is allowed, although not while driving as that would be driving under the influence.

Residents can also have up to 3 ounces of of pot in their possession for recreational purposes without consequences.

But what of the business side of things?

Photo by Wesley Gibbs on Unsplash

This is where New York State can and will lead to help heal our communities that were unfairly targeted and victimized by criminalization of pot.

An estimated $350 million a year in taxes is expected to be generated in what could be a $4.2 billion industry in the state making it one of the largest such in the country. Tax dollars collected from the industry will also divert millions to communities of color that have been impacted by criminalization of the pot that resulted in the arrests of thousands in Bronx neighborhoods alone.

But it doesn’t end there. Licensing for marijuana related businesses will have a substantial set aside for minorities in said communities to ensure that areas like The Bronx that were ravaged by the war on drugs will benefit economically and thwart outsiders from coming into NYS and taking over the industry.

Coming soon to The Bronx? Marijuana grow houses will more than likely flourish across the borough/Photo by Richard T on Unsplash

For decades, Black and Latino residents of The Bronx have been disproportionately targeted by the NYPD and arrested on charges of possession of marijuana at a higher rate than white users of the substance.

In 2020, people of color made up 94% of arrests made with whites accounting for almost 4% of total arrests yet meanwhile in 2019, city health officials found that whites were far more likely to smoke pot that Blacks and Latinos with 24.1% of whites surveyed saying they use the substance versus 14% and 12.3% for Blacks and Latinos respectively.

The consequences of the targeting of communities of color for marijuana use and possession has had a tremendous toll on The Bronx with thousands jailed, families broken apart, jobs lost, and even homelessness through evictions as a result, something which white residents didn’t have to face or at least not at the levels the BIPOC community has in the past.

With the potential of turning into a $4.2 billion industry, it’s only right that The Bronx gets a significantly large portion of this revenue as a form of long overdue reparations and righting a huge wrong.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.