Rev. Al Sharpton, Nina Turner & Stuart Appelbaum among leaders calling for equitable Cannabis implementation in New York State

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Marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will give his first virtual State of the State speech and announce that among the ways the state intends to close its pandemic induced budget gap and fuel recovery for the economy is through recreational cannabis.

In light of the speech, a group of national leaders are coalescing to ensure those targeted by the war on drugs substantially benefit from the legalization of adult use cannabis in the Empire State.

Civil rights leader and Founder of National Action Network (NAN) Reverend Al Sharpton, former Co-Chair of Senator Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Campaign the Honorable Nina Turner, and President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) Stuart Appelbaum have announced that they will be working together, in partnership with other stakeholders statewide, to ensure recreational cannabis is implemented equitably, disenfranchised communities have genuine opportunities to thrive as entrepreneurs and, that the workforce of the industry is justly compensated and there are strong workplace protections in place, including the right to join a union.

Reverend Sharpton said, “For decades I have been a vocal opponent of discriminatory drug policies. Now that cannabis is being legalized around the country, we have a responsibility to ensure that New York is at the forefront of directing the benefits its industry to the places that have been most negatively impacted from its previous criminalization. I applaud the Governor for his focus on equity, and look forward to working to ensuring the benefits of legalized cannabis in New York reach communities directly.”

“Across the country citizens are starting to realize that Black and Latinx people live in a very different America. Fortunately, in places like New York, we have some leaders who understand that we must be intentional about our push towards equity – in all facets – to ensure that even the most genuine intentions are not usurped by generations of systemically embedded racial discrimination. Recreational cannabis presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to materially change the way we develop industry in our nation. I look forward to working with elected officials and community stakeholders to ensure economic justice is inherent in New York’s policy”, said Nina Turner.

Stuart Appelbaum said, “2020 was an extremely difficult year for those who work in jobs that make New York the Empire State. The pandemic has forced us to take a look at just how wide the health and wealth disparities are for those who are not paid livable wages or granted vital workplace protections. As we look forward to 2021 and the State’s plan to leverage the cannabis industry to recover economically, we must also look to ensure that the new careers created provide family sustaining wages and benefits, as well as strong workplace protections that include a path to unionization. I am excited at the opportunity to work with community leaders to guarantee that there are opportunities to succeed in the cannabis industry at every level of this industry.”

The trio intends to work with policy makers to ensure equity provisions are explicit in any legislation that passes. “We are working with a diverse spectrum of stakeholders to collaboratively develop solutions that will sufficiently address equity and access challenges, as well as ensure market participants have the opportunity to thrive as both employees and entrepreneurs”, said spokesperson of the initiative Rachel Noerdlinger.