The Effects Of MRTA On The Black Community From Harlem To The Hudson

March 23, 2021

Black-owned businesses, cultural organizations, and community organizations across the state of New York, led by the Harlem Business Alliance, are racing against the clock to modify major pillars within the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA).

MRTA may be passed any day now by the NYS government.

“Never again should we allow our entrepreneurial industries led and operated by Black people to be taken from us, such as “numbers” invented by Casper Holstein that employed more than 100,000 Black and Brown people across the five boroughs. Marijuana cannot go the same direction,” says Walter Edwards, Chairman, Harlem Business Alliance.

Harlem Business Alliance and Firehouse Harlem along with a growing list of Black New Yorkers, from MOST HARMED communities including Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York, Harlem, Lower East Side, South/Central Bronx, South Jamaica, and other Black communities in Long Island, Westchester and Upstate NY are uniting to push this campaign to modify MRTA now. These communities are still reeling from long-standing systemic racism and all of its byproducts – i.e. red-lining, pipeline to prison, mass incarceration, and more.

We are unified in DEMANDING the following modifications to the MRTA bill S.1527/A.1617:

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Day One

  • No Adult Use licenses should be issued until after the Social Equity plan for Most Harmed Restorative Justice Licensees are approved and implemented.


  • Dispensary, Delivery, and Consumption Businesses in Communities Most Harmed should be majority-owned by Restorative Justice Licensees for a 5 year period.

Vertical Licenses

  • Allow Most Harmed Restorative Justice applicants to pursue vertical licenses.

No Income Restrictions

  • Remove the 80% AMI income cap that will limit the pool of Black entrepreneurs who have the business and financial acumen to build successful enterprises.

MRTA must be revised to meet the goal of providing Economic Restorative Justice only to individuals or family members of individuals who were arrested, convicted, or incarcerated for possession of marijuana, or lived in communities that were over-policed (MOST HARMED). Every opportunity should be taken to develop legislation that provides a business advantage for the MOST HARMED, explains Regina Smith, Executive Director of the Harlem Business Alliance. Black people consistently receive little or no benefit from M/WBE initiatives or Affirmative Action which have been diluted to include groups who were not involved in our Civil Rights struggle. MRTA, as written, will perpetuate this inequity.

The Harlem Business Alliance began its advocacy three years ago and launched the Green Revolution to educate the Black community about the economic benefits that could be derived from well-conceived legalization legislation.

Harlem Business Alliance encourages New Yorkers to sign the petition.

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