WASHINGTON — Democrats across the country have spearheaded the push to legalize recreational marijuana, and this year New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia are joining the party. The legalization effort addresses long-standing racial inequities in our criminal justice system and will benefit states economically through increased tax revenue and business activity.
“It’s high time we brought our drug policy into the 21st century,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “Legalizing marijuana isn’t just an economic or regulatory issue — it’s a civil rights issue. Unequal enforcement of drug laws has disproportionately impacted minority communities and contributed to mass incarceration, and we must take a stand to rectify this inequity. I’m proud of our incredible state Democrats who are lighting up the way forward to a more equitable and just drug policy.”
Democrats have prioritized combating inequality in the push for legalizing weed. In New York, lawmakers prioritized legislation that would expand expungement for past convictions and direct revenue from legalized sales to communities that were burdened by past enforcement policy. The New Mexico bill automatically expunges past marijuana convictions, and the Virginia policy would direct revenues to impacted communities and prioritize licenses for those directly impacted by the War on Drugs.
The cannabis industry would also boost the economy as states recover from the coronavirus pandemic; in New York alone, legalization could have a $3.5 billion impact and create over 60,000 jobs. Polling shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans support legalization.
Seventeen states in total have already taken the step, including the new additions this year and the possibility of more Democratic-led legislatures legalizing cannabis. As the legal weed movement gains momentum, state Democrats are leading the charge to fight for a brighter, more equitable future.