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New York: City Council Issues Formal Call For Legalizing Marijuana

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The New York City Council this week called for the state of New York to pass historic legislation to both decriminalize and to tax and regulate marijuana.

As part of the Council’s State Budget and Legislative Agenda for the 2015-2016 legislative session, the New York City Council urged the Legislature to pass two historic marijuana policy reforms – the Fairness and Equity Act and the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA). The Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito had previously announced her support for marijuana legalization in November, but this marks the first time that marijuana decriminalization and legalization have been part of the Council’s official legislative agenda.

The Fairness and Equity Act -- sponsored by Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Robert Rodriquez -- would finally fix New York’s decriminalization law regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana, ending racially biased marijuana arrests. The Council noted that the Act would “end the unnecessary and disproportionate arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers by ensuring that possession or sharing of small amounts of marijuana can never result in a criminal penalty.”

The proposal includes additional provisions to meaningfully address the devastating collateral consequences and historic legacy of these arrests and reduce institutional racial bias across New York’s criminal justice system.

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