A deal has finally arrived on the state's plan to legalize marijuana - New York lawmakers reached a deal late Saturday night with social and economic equality at the core of the legislation.
"We're really talking about this as a moment of restitution," said Melissa Moore, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Moore says cannabis prohibition has especially taken a toll on communities of color, where marijuana arrest rates tend to be disproportionately higher.
"People have had their children ripped from their arms just days after giving birth at the hospital just of alleged use, again nothing that have shown an impact to the child but yet tearing families apart," said Moore.
She says marijuana convictions have also blocked employment, higher education opportunities, and even stable housing for many individuals.
The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act will address prior criminalization and expunge marijuana convictions off records.
Alice Green with the Center for Law and Justice says the legislation will reinvest into those communities with the tax revenue earned from marijuana sales.
But she has some concerns.
"We have to be extremely vigilant because in the past law enforcement have found reasons to stop people, even though we might have a legal marijuana bill in law, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to change their approach and behavior towards people of color," said Green.
While a social and economic program is included in this legislation, Green says transitioning the illicit market into a legal one can be a challenge.
"It could be difficult for people to get in on the ground floor regarding the retail end of it, we recognize that, so there’s going to have to be a lot of educating the community about this legislation," said Green.
The legislation will be debated on Tuesday, and if passed, could be signed into law as early as this week.