'Sex and the City' star Cynthia Nixon just made legal marijuana a key part of her campaign for governor in New York

  • Cynthia Nixon is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York’s gubernatorial race.
  • Nixon recently announced that she wants to legalise marijuana in New York.
  • Nixon said people of colour are arrested at high rates for using marijuana, something white people do “with impunity.”
  • Analysis suggests marijuana could be a boon to New York’s tax revenues and could create jobs in the state.

Cynthia Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” star who is mounting a progressive challenge to New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming state election, wants to legalise marijuana in New York.

“I believe its time for New York to follow the lead of eight other states and D.C. and legalise recreational marijuana,” Nixon said in a video she posted to her Twitter account, adding, “we have to stop putting people of colour in jail for something that white people do with impunity.”

Nixon went on to say that 80% of people arrested for consuming marijuana in New York state are black and Latino, although white New Yorkers use marijuana at roughly the same rates. State-wide data suggests the disparity is even a bit larger than Nixon described: 86% of marijuana arrests were of black and latino residents in 2017, while just 5% were white, according to a Politico report.

A 2016 report from the Police Reform Organising Project, an advocacy group, found that people of colour accounted for more than nine out of 10 arrests made on suspicion of marijuana possession and sale in New York City.

The New York Times first reported on Nixon’s willingness to legalise the plant earlier this month, based on comments she’d made at a private fundraiser.

“In addition to ending a key front in the racist war on drugs, regulating and taxing marijuana would generate hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue for our people and create important agricultural opportunities for our state,” Nixon said in the Twitter video.

She’s likely right about that.

Marijuana could become a $US75 billion industry by 2030 if it becomes legal nationwide, according to an analyst from the investment bank Cowen. Federal legalization could also inject up to $US130 billion into US tax coffers by 2025.

Cuomo currently opposes full marijuana legalization, but New York state committed $US10 million in grant funding to the Industrial Hemp Research Initiative in 2017, in order to encourage hemp production in the state.

Hemp contains negligible amounts of THC – the intoxicating substance in marijuana– and can’t get you high, though it has a range of industrial applications from textiles to food and can even be used in construction.

Nixon may be taking cues from the success of New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, who successfully ran for governor on a platform to legalise marijuana in the state. A number of New York’s neighbours, including Massachusetts and Vermont, have legalised marijuana in recent months.

The agenda is popular on both sides of the political spectrum: 64% per cent of Americans want to see marijuana legalised, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Former House Speaker John Boehner – Nixon’s ideological opposite in many ways – announced on Wednesday that he is joining the board of a marijuana company.

Marijuana companies are already moving into New York, taking advantage of what they see as momentum in the industry.

MedMen, a cannabis retail company that operates a chain of slick, high-end marijuana dispensaries, plans to open a new flagship store on Manhattan’s 5th Avenue on April 20. While that store is specifically for medical marijuana – which is allowed in a restricted fashion under New York’s law – the company hopes to pivot to a retail business if New York’s legislature legalizes the plant.

Nixon may not succeed in her primary challenge against Cuomo, but her platform’s popularity among progressives may wind up shifting Cuomo on the issue of marijuana legalization.

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