New York State Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) has filed a bill calling for gay, lesbian, and bisexual New Yorkers to qualify for the state’s cannabis social equity program.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalized marijuana, requires 50% of cannabis business licenses to be granted “to individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, certified MWBEs, distressed farmers, and service-disabled veterans.”
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“I am proud to introduce legislation to include members of our lesbian, gay and bisexual community for priority licensure in the new adult-use recreational cannabis market,” Cooney told Marijuana Moment. “When New York State legalized adult-use recreational marijuana, we made a commitment to addressing the discrimination and injustice caused by the War on Drugs.”
Indeed, not only do LGBTQ people report disproportionately high rates of drug use, but members of the community also experience increased police surveillance under the suspicion of drug possession, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
Additionally, incarceration rates for LGB people are three times higher than for straight people, and a shocking 47% of Black trans people report being incarcerated at some point in their lives, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
When discussing the new bill, Cooney emphasized that the MRTA was designed with equity in mind and that adding queer people will help the state become “the most inclusive cannabis economy in the nation.”
“This state has recognized that discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation is a violation of human rights law,” the bill states. “The social equity aspect of the MRTA is meant to uplift historically marginalized groups through economic opportunities in the cannabis industry and this bill furthers that effort.”