Queens senator talks about the potential local impacts of legalizing recreational marijuana

unnamed (1)
Photos courtesy of the Office of State Senator James Sanders Jr.

A recent conversation session in Jamaica explored the possibilities that legalizing marijuana would have on the “World’s Borough.”

State Senator James Sanders Jr. held the second of a two-part session hosting conversations about legalizing recreational marijuana throughout New York state and what sort of impact it would have on Queens.

While the first session, which took place on Feb. 2, looked at potential effects of marijuana on the community, the second session on April 6 examined the money and policies aspect of the issue, focusing specifically on how to best structure regulations surrounding marijuana and where to direct taxes derived from pot sales.

The April 6 meeting was held at Black Spectrum Theatre in Jamaica. While Sanders himself does not support legalizing marijuana, he does support decriminalization of marijuana.

“We are here, my friends, because the legalization of marijuana is a moment away in terms of government,” Sanders said. “The only thing that has slowed it down are some technicalities. I am personally not in favor of legalization. I believe, for some, this will be a gateway to other drugs. We need to seriously examine when the government becomes the pusher.”

While panelists and audience members expressed different points of view throughout the session, many people agreed that if recreational marijuana were to become legal, it should be regulated in a way that ensures equity so that it isn’t just a select group who can profit from cannabis industry and should also include a robust drug treatment and public education campaign component.

Some of the speakers at the event included Shaleen Title, Massachusetts Commissioner of Cannabis Control, and Bradley Usher, Chief of Staff for Senator Liz Krueger. Senator Krueger introduce a bill to the state that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana under the similar rules that are used to regulate alcohol. Krueger’s goal with this bill is to reverse what she describes as “decades of costly, counterproductive policies that have produced racially discriminatory outcomes.” Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes has introduced a companion bill in the Assembly.

Key points in the bill, also know as the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), include prohibiting the sale of marijuana to individuals under the age of 21, but makes 18 the minimum age for marijuana possession and consumption. The bill also allows cultivation of up to six marijuana plants, gives the State Liquor Authority to grant licenses for marijuana production, transport and retail sales and removes penalties for possession of 2 ounces of marijuana or less.

As the head of the Cannabis Control Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a state where both recreational and medical marijuana is legal, Title aims to develop and enforce regulations in the cannabis industry to achieve equity and make sure that those who were impacted by the war on drugs are prioritized in terms of benefiting from the industry.

“We are trying to cross a bridge that we are building at the same time in a way that is honest and just,” Title said. “We strive to be transparent and honest.”

Sanders is encouraging the public to weigh in the debate by using #NYTALKSPOT on social media.

Many community members attended the event to gain information about the possible legalization of marijuana in New York and to express their views and concerns.


More from Around New York