The newly introduced bills relate to populations that are disproportionately made up of people of color, which are more often targeted for low-level marijuana offenses than whiter or wealthier populations.
On Wednesday, Brooklyn Councilmembers Jumaane D. Williams, Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Antonio Reynoso re-introduced legislation to reform disciplinary action for low-level marijuana offenses in city agencies such as the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the Department of Sanitation and the New York Housing Authority (NYCHA).
“It is simply illogical and inconceivable that jobs are being lost and lives are being ruined because of low-level marijuana offenses. Disciplinary actions and criminal penalties for marijuana possession disproportionately affect communities of color,” said Williams who represents the 45th District including Canarsie, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park and Midwood. “The legislation that I introduced today is aimed at ensuring that New Yorkers in these agencies are not facing inordinate penalties and unjust repercussions for actions that would result in slap on the wrist if committed by those with greater privilege.”
The first piece of legislation, Intro. 0821, would amend the administrative code of the city of New York to prohibit the Taxi and Limousine Commission from using low-level marijuana offenses to suspend or revoke a city-issued license or to deny an application for a license. The second, Intro. 0820, would prohibit the Department of Sanitation from using these same low-level marijuana-related offenses as the sole reason to discipline employees.
Williams also introduced a resolution, Res. 0296, calling on NYCHA to add unlawful possession of marijuana and criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth and fifth degrees to its list of “overlooked offenses,” to stop considering these offenses as grounds for termination of tenancy.
“With respect to this resolution and having lived in NYCHA for many years as a youth and young adult, I know of many individuals and families who experienced terminations as a result of these types of convictions,” said Ampry-Samuel who represents the 41st District which includes portions of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush, Crown Heights. “A minor marijuana infraction is not something that should prevent people from accessing and maintaining public housing, taxi medallions or employment with the Department of Sanitation.”
These measures come as the debate over the criminalization of marijuana is prominent not only in New York City but in state and federal government as well.
Last week, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon stated in a 90-second video on YouTube that it’s time New York joined eight other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational use of marijuana, calling it a necessary step toward reducing racial inequities in the criminal justice system. As New Yorkers have expressed their growing support for legalization, also Governor Cuomo appears to be reconsidering his stance. Cuomo, who previously has labeled recreational marijuana as a “gateway drug,” is currently looking into a recreational cannabis feasibility study.