LI leaders call for Albany to legalize marijuana

Tom McCarthy
John R. Durso,of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, advocates for marijuana reform along with other progressive organizations. Photo by Tom McCarthy


The deadline for the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation act to pass is June 19 and Long Island progressive leaders and organizers want both sides of the aisle in Albany to adopt the legislation.

The Local 338 Retail, Wholesale, and Chain Store Food Employees Union is standing in solidarity with progressive leaders backing the reform legislation.

“As the labor union currently representing hundreds of workers in the New York medical cannabis industry, including here on Long Island, we have a unique perspective on the value that this crucially important program brings, not just to patients and their families, but also to the communities in which they operate,” said John Durso, of Local 338.

The organizations shared results from a Sienna poll Monday morning showing that about 55 percent of all New Yorkers support the recreational marijuana legislation, with slightly higher support in the suburbs (55 percent) and upstate (59 percent).

Durso believes the state is in need of “some real criminal justice reform” and that it’s rare for there to be an opportunity to start a new industry. The organizations produced data from the New York Civil Liberties Union revealing that more than 900,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for marijuana since 2000. Statewide, black people are 10 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites even though their usage rates are similar.

The bill says the intent of the act is to regulate, control, and tax marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol and that doing so will generate millions of dollars in new revenue. The new law would prevent access to marijuana by those under the age of 21.

Local 338 and progressive activist groups such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, The Women’s Diversity Network and the Long Island Progressive Coalition hosted a news conference at Local 338’s building in Mineola Monday to educate New Yorkers on the benefits of marijuana legalization. 

“For far too long, communities of color and some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers among us have been disproportionately hurt by our state’s arcane cannabis policies,” said state Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Lyndenhurst). 

She strongly supports the act in Albany, is critical of the current criminal justice system and believes in the potential of the bill to bring about criminal justice reform in the state. “We’re dealing with major systems of oppression in New York state and Nassau County,” the assemblywoman said.

In addition to activists and legislators, doctors and growers also spoke at the news conference about the benefits of the legislation. Dr. Richard Carlton, of Port Washington, shared his expertise with medicinal cannabis, saying, “This legislation would be a major victory in the fight against the opioid crisis as every state that has legalized cannabis has seen an astounding drop in opioid deaths.

“I’ve prescribed cannabis to wounded combat veterans suffering from PTSD, and I’ve seen these individuals end their dependency on opioids and alcohol and turns their lives around.”


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