New York gubernatorial candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon on Saturday expanded on her calls for marijuana legalization, saying that the industry could provide a form of “reparations” for communities of color.
Nixon, who expressed her support for legalizing marijuana earlier this year, told Forbes that she views marijuana as a racial justice issue.
“We’re incarcerating people of color in such staggering numbers,” she said.
She expressed support for what is known as an “equity” program, which would prioritize giving marijuana business licenses to people who have received marijuana convictions in the past.
“Now that cannabis is exploding as an industry, we have to make sure that those communities that have been harmed and devastated by marijuana arrests get the first shot at this industry,” she told Forbes. “We [must] prioritize them in terms of licenses. It's a form of reparations.”
In New York in 2017, 86 percent of fifth-degree marijuana arrests were of people of color, while only 9 percent of those arrested were white, despite data showing that black and white people are about equally likely to use marijuana.
Oakland, Calif., and Massachusetts have both launched marijuana equity programs in conjunction with legalization.
In an appearance at the NYC Cannabis Parade on Saturday, Nixon also said marijuana records should be expunged.
“Arresting people — particularly people of color — for cannabis is the crown jewel in the racist war on drugs and we must pluck it down,” she said. “We must expunge people’s records; we must get people out of prison.”
“The use of marijuana has been effectively legal for white people for a really long time,” she told Forbes. “It's time that we legalize it for everybody else.”
Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and in Washington, D.C., but not in New York.