On Tuesday, January 25th, Queens Defenders’ Director of Special Projects, Kirlyn Joseph and Attorney, Mani Tafari joined the ‘Take Action Webinar’ hosted by the Queens Borough President’s Office. The panel consisted of: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; Katherine Brezler, The Office of the Queens Borough President’s Strategic Advisor; and Simon Malinowski, an attorney with Harris Bricken’s New York Office, moderated by Tariqua Morrison, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for The Office of the Queens Borough President. This esteemed group of individuals had an engaging conversation about the impact and overall aspects of the Marijuana Regulation and the Taxation Act (MRTA), as well as related expungement. 

To start the discussion, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards stressed the importance of educating the public about what exactly is in this bill and what it means for Queens. Borough President Richards touted the bill saying it brings the whole of New York State on a path towards restorative justice, while also stressing the importance of bringing business into the borough. Speaking on the impact of the legislation, Borough President emphasized the opportunities the expungement and contracts will bring to Queens and ensuring the communities most affected by the criminalization will be the first to get licenses, stressing that the disparate impact of previous drug laws will no longer be a barrier to the Queens community. 

Simon Malinowski, Managing Attorney at Harris Bricken’s New York office specializing in cannabis law explained the overall view of this emerging market. Mr. Malinowski went over a brief history of how the law came into being, and spoke about the various types of licenses and the process to get those licenses. Malinowski went into specifics about working with the Office of Cannabis Management and State Liquor Authority to procure a license. He ended by speaking about the social and economic equity program provided by the MRTA, and the social and economic equity fund recently announced by the cannabis control board. 

Queens Defenders Attorney, Mani Tafari brought a bit of history to the discussion by sharing a presentation on the history and background of cannabis in America. Mr. Tafari expressed that one of his biggest problems is with the stigma that is around the plant a stigma that exists because of a forced narrative believed by the community at large. Throughout Mr. Tafari’s fun history lesson, he illustrated that anti-marijuana campaigns, fueled by anti-immigrant and racist sentiments, brought forth this stigma that we are still fighting against today. 

Queens Defenders Director of Special Projects, Kirlyn Joseph discussed what she believes is one of the more important aspects of MRTA: the expungement. Ms. Joseph shared how previous policing methods would allow for large numbers of arrests on the grounds of criminal possession, leading to a criminal record that was public and will impact the rest of the lives of those individuals. She emphasized the important difference between sealing a case and expunging a case from the record, stating that when a case is sealed it is still accessible to employers and potential landlords, but when a case is expunged it is gone from your record (depending on the circumstances).  

This discussion was for Queens area residents to learn about the intricacies of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and how it will benefit those in our borough. Watch this full informative webinar on YouTube here.