This State Legalized Marijuana, But Black Users Are Still At Risk

Hands grinding marijuana
Zain Murdock
April 12, 2021

On March 30, New York passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) to legalize recreational marijuana use for those 21+, making NY the 15th state to do so. So what does this really mean?

This bill includes: re-entry services, improvements to medical marijuana programs, protections against job and housing discrimination, and even clearing some criminal records. So, that’s the good news … but you should also know this.

Marijuana possession is often the excuse they use to lock us up. But, the states that have already legalized it still arrest Black people for marijuana charges at extremely high rates!

In Nevada, Black people are 3x as likely to get arrested for it than white people. That number is 4x in Massachusetts and 6.1x in Vermont. And in Nevada? 7.5x! 

In New York, pre-legalization, it was 2.6x. And 9 out of 10 arrests were for possession – not selling.

Marijuana legalization is a huge step that's been in the works for years and was made possible by local advocates and community members. But, the fight isn't over. People are still imprisoned for a "crime" that's no longer illegal. Our people in possession of it are still criminalized, and it's still not legal at the federal level. We have to keep challenging this system if we want all our people to be free.

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