The Group Portrait: Little Pot
New York magazine|April 26 - May 9, 2021
The activists and entrepreneurs intent on making New York’s new cannabis industry more equitable, less corporate.
Rachel Sugar

JAWANZA WILLIAMS REMEMBERS the day in 2019 when adult-use marijuana legalization didn’t pass in New York. As the director of organizing for vocal-ny, he had been advocating for nearly a decade, and he thought this time his group might have it. Now, he was at the Capitol with his fellow activists, talking through the loss. In the end, it had come down to the money: Progressive legislators wanted to direct half of the cannabis revenue to minority communities, but Governor Cuomo wouldn’t commit in writing. “We were outraged,” Williams says. But for him, the outcome contained “a seed of hope.” A compromised bill might have resulted in a form of legalization that ignored “the experiences of Black, brown, and poor people who have been catching hell as it relates to this one plant,” he says. “So even though we didn’t win, we also didn’t exactly lose.”

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