NY Mayor pushes cannabis revenue as gateway to racial equity

'We have an opportunity to make it right, and how we invest these dollars, to me, matters,' Warren said

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Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren‘s recent statements about marijuana legalization have come under fire, according to WHAM. Her statements come after a briefing by state legislators earlier this week, confirming they had reached an agreement regarding the legalization of marijuana.

In a letter detailing her plan to the Ibero-American Action League, later shared with WHAM, Mayor Warren said: “Beyond changing policies and procedures, we must do more to close the wealth gap between Black and Brown people and our White residents.”

“With marijuana legalization on the horizon in New York, we have an opportunity we never had before to bring real resources to bear to uplift our families and improve, not just their financial wellbeing, but their very future,” she continued. 

Release Of Police Video Of Daniel Prude's Detainment Sparks Protests In Rochester, New York
Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

To repair these disparities, Warren proposed the “payment of reparations” with the creation of a Universal Basic Income or a home ownership program, reported WHAM. The publication also noted her appointment of a committee tasked with exploring the pilot programs of other cities, comprised of Brittaney Wells, Warren’s chief of staff, and Cephas Archie, Rochester’s chief equity officer.

Per the report, Warren also intends to galvanize the efforts of the Rochester City Council, United Way of Greater Rochester, YMCA of Greater Rochester, and other community-based, charitable organizations, with which Rochester is “rich”, she said. The committee is scheduled to corral some time next month and will discuss the realization of Warren’s plan.

Read More: New York to legalize recreational marijuana after solidifying deal

“Government, in our policies and our procedures, has disproportionately affected Black and Brown people in our community,” said the Mayor. “We have an opportunity to make it right, and how we invest these dollars, to me, matters. The people, the neighborhoods, the communities that were most affected by the criminalization of marijuana deserve the opportunity to be the first ones to receive and to be invested in as we start to distribute those dollars.”

Speaking further about the government’s responsibility to the equal distribution of our country’s wealth, Warren asked “When we think about the fact we provide, as government, subsidies for rich people all the time, why can’t we provide a subsidy to make poor people less poor?”

Per the WHAM article, Warren also stressed the importance of the committee prioritizing research and developing practical, effective methods for distributing these proposed funds. She believes the distribution will require the collective response of local organizations and non-profits with experience servicing often-underserved demographics.

“What I do know for a fact that is Black and Brown people in this community have suffered for way too long,” Warren said, “and this is an opportunity for us to change lives generationally for them, and to put in place the steps to make it happen.”

The committee’s collaboration with community groups is scheduled to begin next week, although the state still awaits word from the Assembly and Senate in order to finalize the deal to legalize recreational marijuana use in New York, WHAM reported.

Read More: Rochester mayor suspends officers seen pepper spraying 9-year-old girl

According to another report by theGrio, the city of Evanston, Illinois saw a 5 percent decline in its Black residents between 2017 and 2020, likely due to what Alderman Robin Rue Simmons referred to as the deliberate targeting and exclusion of the city’s Black residents. 

To correct this, CBS Chicago reported that Evanston hoped to fund an account that would reserve 100 percent of its tax revenue from marijuana sales to help the Black residents of Evanston remain in the city. 

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