New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday came out in favor of legalizing marijuana, citing an interest in righting criminal justice inequities driven by the drug’s prohibition.
Gillibrand announced she supports legislation from Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, that would legalize marijuana at the federal level and expunge criminal records for prior convictions of marijuana possession.
“Millions of Americans’ lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities,” Gillibrand said in a prepared statement.
She argued the marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects black and Hispanic communities, which experience marijuana arrests and convictions at far higher rates than their white counterparts. Gillibrand said in the release she has met with New York families that have experienced negative impacts from marijuana laws.
In a Siena College poll of New Yorkers released Monday, 56 percent of respondents said they support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, and 40 percent said they oppose legalization.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his budget proposal, called for a task force to study the effects of moving toward legalization in New York. But he has also voiced opposition to legalization, telling reporters while in Schenectady last year that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” and that he was “unconvinced on recreational marijuana.”
New York has had legalized medical marijuana since 2016, but only in capsule, tincture and vaporized oils forms.