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New York senator fights for cannabis legalization as part of the criminal justice reform package

New York senator fights for cannabis legalization as part of the criminal justice reform package

New York Senator Julia Salazar is pushing for cannabis legalization as part of a criminal justice reform package. This renewed effort comes just amidst ongoing nationwide protests over brutal police killings of black Americans. 

The Safer NY Act package

The criminal justice reform package dubbed The Safer NY Act includes five bills among them marijuana legalization. According to senator Salazar (D), legislators should pursue the matter right now, as it seeks to “help increase police accountability to New Yorkers’ most common encounters with police.”

In a press release earlier this week, the senator pushed for “legalizing marijuana with strong attention paid to ensuring that resources are reinvested in communities most harmed by prohibition.”

Last year, New York expanded cannabis decriminalization but Salazar said full legalization is required to stop criminalizing responsible use of the product.

“It’s not enough until we fully make it legal and we stop criminalizing people for using it, especially for using it responsibly, and stop criminalizing people for something that is completely legal within driving distance of our state. Of course, in this particular moment, I think what’s the most important factor here is that [criminalization] disproportionately impacts black and brown New Yorkers.”

More black and brown New Yorkers suffer in the hands of police due to criminalization of the use of marijuana. 

Legislators ready

The New York Senator believes her colleagues in the Senate are ready to advance the legalization bill as part of the criminal justice reform package.

There is some will to do it…I would say, we haven’t been actively discussing it this week and yet we have been conferencing. Frankly, I think there’s so much work to be done urgently on police accountability, Salazar said. 

The push for full cannabis legalization is gaining momentum across the US, with more lawmakers and stakeholders supporting the move. On Monday this week, Zephyr Teachout, one of the contestants in 2014 primary race, said the parliament should reconvene to endorse the package.

Various civil rights groups such as New York’s NAACP chapter, New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Drug Policy Alliance also supported the package. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has pushed for cannabis legalization, even including it in his annual budget proposals. Similarly, Assembly Majority Leader 

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