Albany should think about paying residents who were harmed by marijuana regulations compensation.

ATLANTA – According to a recent Common Council proposal, the city should use the proceeds from legal marijuana sales to compensate communities of color hurt by the drug war.

In light of the impending launch of marijuana retail sales, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Gabriella Romero and Tenth Ward Councilman Owusu Anane propose to establish a nine-member commission to provide recommendations to the city and Common Council. The recommendations, which would not be legally binding, would also include suggestions regarding who should receive compensation, how much compensation they ought to get, and how it ought to be delivered.
The ordinance is based on a state-level proposal of a similar nature that was approved by the Assembly.

Romero remarked, “I’m aiming to go one step farther.” “Why not put Albany in the lead?”

The commission would also be entrusted with researching federal, state, and municipal laws and regulations that criminalized marijuana sales and disproportionately affected people of color.

Anane stated that he believed the city could alter the economics of its most impoverished communities by using the projected profits. Anane said he could imagine the commission recommending initiatives to increase small company prospects and homeownership even though the commission would be making the recommendations.

He remarked, “I think we have a duty to elevate people out of poverty for this city to grow forward.”

After being established, the commission would produce a report within six months. They wouldn’t receive payment for their labor.

According to the proposed legislation, people would be chosen for the commission by Mayor Kathy Sheehan, the Common Council, and community organizations including the Center for Law and Justice, A Village Inc., and the NAACP.

The council members said that allowing community organizations to choose commission members will help the city better understand the consequences marijuana prohibition had on the city as well as the most effective way to use the proceeds to remedy the harm.

Prior to its anticipated unveiling the following month, Romero said that the legislation was still undergoing changes.

The enforcement of laws against the sale and use of marijuana has historically had a disproportionately negative effect on Black and Brown individuals, according to data.

According to a 2020 Times Union analysis of local police statistics, 97 percent of those accused of marijuana charges over the course of a year were Black. Surveys have revealed that the rates of marijuana use among Black and White people are comparable.

Selling marijuana for recreational purposes and utilizing the proceeds for reparations is not a novel concept. Evanston, Illinois, decided to give $10 million to qualified Black households over the following ten years in 2021. Every eligible household would get $25,000 for home improvements, down payments on real estate, and interest or late fees on city-owned property.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Democratic contender Beto O’Rourke suggested that cannabis tax money could be used to create a new “Drug War Justice Grant” program that would give former prisoners direct payments. The New York Civil Liberties Union has expressed support for giving people impacted by marijuana’s illegality the financial gains from legalized sales.

The state legislation that authorized recreational marijuana use is consistent with using sales tax income to make up for the harm done to minority groups due to unequal enforcement of marijuana prohibition. The law mandates the yearly investment of millions in racial disparate drug policing-affected communities from tax income. Also according to the state, those affected by marijuana prohibition will be among the first to be granted a conditional permit to sell marijuana for recreational purposes.

In order to create cannabis regulations for the city, including those for dispensaries and on-site consumption, the city is currently setting up a special commission made up of municipal residents. The city has not yet revealed who will serve on the panel; the application deadline for the committee was June 15th.

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