Bronx Defenders Respond to Governor Cuomo’s Call for Marijuana Legalization  


January 6, 2021 

Ryan Karerat, The Bronx Defenders (

(NEW YORK, NY) – Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced his proposal for marijuana legalization as a part of his 2021 State of the State address. 

Eli Northrup, Policy Counsel for the Criminal Defense Practice at  The Bronx Defenders, issued the following reaction: 

“We are heartened to see the Governor identifying an end to marijuana prohibition as a common-sense priority for the 2021 legislative session. 

Legalizing marijuana would be a long overdue step forward, but it must be done with a clear eye towards understanding and rectifying the damage done by the War on Drugs. The path forward is clear: Rather than creating new and complicated funding proposals, the Governor should put his energy behind supporting the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.1527/A.1617).

MRTA offers a clear and comprehensive vision for getting marijuana legalization done in a way that best serves the low-income Black and brown communities that have been most harmed by its prohibition, including many neighborhoods in the South Bronx. It centers racial and economic justice by:

  • Reinvesting tax revenue directly into the Black and brown communities harmed most by marijuana prohibition. 
  • Eliminating criminal penalties and expunging convictions for marijuana offenses. 
  • Eliminating collateral consequences of marijuana convictions in the housing, education, child welfare, and immigration systems.
  • Proactively creating opportunities for the communities most targeted by enforcement to participate in and profit from the new marijuana economy in the state. 

We are in the midst of a devastating public health and economic crisis that low-income Black and brown New Yorkers have predictably borne the brunt of. To legalize marijuana in a way that leaves those communities behind would be unconscionable.

The time to act is now. We look forward to working with the Governor to achieve true marijuana justice for all New Yorkers.”