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Revitalizing, deeply flawed are what opposing sides are calling legalization

Crystal Peoples-Stokes

The legalization of marijuana will allow many New Yorkers to restart their lives. That's according to the measure's sponsor in the Assembly, Buffalo Democrat Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

Peoples-Stokes pointed to the 5,000 Buffalo residents who had their criminal records cleaned of offenses when marijuana was decriminalized in 2019.

"Those sort of questions about your forward movement as a citizen will be removed. No one will know that you had a felony because it’ll be expunged," she said. "That allows people to begin moving forward with their lives after they had paid a price for something that right now people are making a lot of money from."

She said many employers, housing and rental agencies, credit agencies and even the federal government’s higher education access to loans question whether a person has a felony. Peoples-Stokes said legalization will be good for the wider community.

"It not only helps the people who were incarcerated through multiple decades of mass incarceration, but it also helps their children and helps the communities that they live in. And it actually helps the broader community have access to creating new jobs."

Peoples-Stokes said legalization will also have economic benefits, as the new law mandates half of the licenses issued to grow and sell pot must go to minorities, everyone from farmers down along the supply and sale chain.

Not everyone agrees, however. Some Republican lawmakers, including Senate GOP Leader Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda said legalization is a backroom deal that ignores the views of law enforcement and will hurt the health and safety of New Yorkers.

Credit Rob Ortt / Twitter

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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