N.Y. lawmakers support legal weed, decriminalizing prostitution

(NY DAILY NEWS) – ALBANY — Progressive lawmakers, criminal justice and immigration advocates see a clear path to justice with a Democratic supermajority in Albany.

A coalition of policymakers and advocates laid out a “Justice Roadmap” on Tuesday, pushing for a sweeping slate of overhauls that includes decriminalizing prostitution, legalizing marijuana, and broad reforms for immigrants and the state’s prison system.

Rallies were held across the state along with a virtual press conference as advocates argue that Democratic gains in the state Senate are a sure sign that New Yorkers want lawmakers to build on recently enacted criminal justice reforms.

“With the 2020 elections, New Yorkers gave the Legislature a mandate to confront systemic racism and the harm to Black and Brown communities of criminalization, incarceration and immigrant detention,” said Marvin Mayfield, the statewide organizer at Center for Community Alternatives. “The time is now.”

The legislative package being pushed includes bills addressing and ending solitary confinement, enacting parole reform, ending law enforcement collaboration with federal immigration enforcement, legalizing marijuana and more.

“As we head into the new year, transforming our criminal justice system and protecting immigrant communities must remain a priority in New York State,” said Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx). “With a supermajority in the state Senate, we have the opportunity to enact bold and common-sense legislation that can decrease the criminalization of our communities, reduce inhumane practices of incarceration and safeguard undocumented New Yorkers.”

At the heart of the push is a number of bills that have floundered in Albany for years including the repeal of the so-called “walking while trans” ban that would protect transgender and others from being targeted by police and decriminalizing sex work between consenting adults.

Efforts to legalize recreational marijuana have repeatedly stalled over the past two years due to disagreements about who will get licenses to grow and sell pot as well as how tax revenues would be distributed.

Another bill that has failed to pass both houses is a measure limiting solitary confinement to no more than 15 days and creating alternatives to placing prisoners in isolation.

“With the new supermajorities in the Legislature, we fully expect this slate of bills to be passed and to chart a new course for full freedom, justice and equality,” said Jerome Wright, statewide organizer for the #HALTsolitary Campaign.

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