Cynthia Nixon’s pot remarks ignite outrage from black leaders

ALBANY — Cynthia Nixon took heat Monday from black leaders over her comments that creating a legalized pot industry in New York could serve as a form of reparations in black communities.

Nixon on Saturday told Forbes magazine “now that cannabis is exploding as an industry, we have to make sure that those communities that have been harmed and devastated by marijuana arrests get the first shot at this industry.”

“We (must) prioritize them in terms of licenses. It's a form of reparations.”

The comments came under fire from some community leaders.

“I’m for legalizing marijuana and I like Cynthia Nixon but putting pot shops in our communities is not reparations,” the Rev. Al Sharpton tweeted. “Health care, education !!”

Manhattan Democratic Party Chairman Keith Wright, a former long-time state assemblyman from Harlem, said Nixon's comment "is ill-informed, lacks understanding of the greatest crime in history, and should cease and desist."

"Reparations is a repayment for the free labor that built this country," said Wright, a former state Democratic party chairman under Gov. Cuomo.

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Cynthia Nixon out and about
Cynthia Nixon speaks during the Democratic gubernatorial primary debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York August 29, 2018. J. Conrad Williams Jr./Pool via REUTERS
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29: Cynthia Nixon attends the portrait unveilings of Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon starring on Broadway in the Manhattan Theatre Club's THE LITTLE FOXES, at Sardi's on June 29, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
Democratic candidate for governor, Cynthia Nixon looks up as she cast her vote in the New York State Democratic primary in New York City, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Actress Cynthia Nixon attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Cynthia Nixon (L) attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 4: Cynthia Nixon attends 2017 Drama Desk Awards - Arrivals at Anita's Way on June 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22: Cynthia Nixon on stage at the 2017 The Lilly Awards at Playwrights Horizons on May 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Cynthia Nixon attends the Outer Critics Circle 2016-2017 Awards at Sardi's on May 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Best Actress in a Play Winner for 'The Little Foxes' Laura Linney and Best Featured Actress in a Play Winner for 'The Little Foxes' Cynthia Nixon pose at the 2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards Presentation at Sardi's on May 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22: Cynthia Nixon attends the 2017 Lilly Awards at Playwrights Horizons on May 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon attend the 83rd Annual Drama League Awards Ceremony at Marriott Marquis Times Square on May 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN -- Pictured: Cynthia Nixon -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney attend the 2017 Tony Awards Meet The Nominees Press Junket at the Sofitel Hotel on May 3, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Actor Cynthia Nixon attends 2017 Drama Desk Nominees reception at Marriott Marquis Times Square on May 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Actress Cynthia Nixon visits the SiriusXM Studios on April 21, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Christine Marinoni and wife Cynthia Nixon pose at the opening night after party for Manhattan Theatre Clubs production of 'The Little Foxes' on Broadway at The Copacabana on April 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney during the Broadway Opening Night Curtain Call bows for 'The Little Foxes' at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on April 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Cynthia Nixon attends the 2017 Afghan Hands fundraiser at Gabriel & Co Showroom on March 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28: Cynthia Nixon attends the cast photo call for the Manhattan Theatre Club's New Broadway Production of 'The Little Foxes' at the MTC Rehearsal studios on February 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: (L-R) Cynthia Nixon, Mario Cantone and Claudia Shear pose at the Opening Night Party for The New Group production of 'Evening at The Talk House' at Green Fig Urban Eatery at Yotel on February 16, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - JANUARY19: American actress Cynthia Nixon gives a speech as people gather in front of Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York, USA on January 19, 2017 during a demonstration to protest US President-elect, Republican, Donald Trump ahead of his inauguration which will be held in Washington. Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio,Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges participate the protest as well as celebrities including Robert De Niro, Marisa Tomei, Sally Field, Alec Baldwin, Mark Ruffalo, Cynthia Nixon, Michael Moore, Cher, Natalie Merchant . (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - DECEMBER 11: Cynthia Nixon arrives at the The 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: Actress Cynthia Nixon attends the 'Sweet Charity' Opening Night Afterparty at The Lindeman on November 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)
Democratic candidate for governor, Cynthia Nixon speaks to reporters after voting in the New York State Democratic primary in New York City, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Democratic candidate for governor, Cynthia Nixon speaks to reporters after voting in the New York State Democratic primary in New York City, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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"Ms. Nixon should relegate her comments to legalization, pro or con," he said. "I believe social equity should be a part of licenses to sell marijuana, if and when legalization does occur. However, it is insulting to my soul, that the free labor that my ancestors gave to this country would be equated with the selling of marijuana."

Black Lives Matter of Greater NY blasted Nixon’s comments as “offensive and ignorant.”

“It does a disservice to our community for her to play into harmful stereotypes of African-Americans as drug users and dealers,” the group said in a statement. “And it does an even greater disservice to the enduring consequences of both slavery and Jim Crow and the inequities these systems of oppression perpetuated to claim that legalizing marijuana would somehow erase that experience.”

The group called on Nixon to apologize.

Nixon on Saturday attended a rally for the legalization of pot in New York. She has focused heavily on the issue and the fact that the disproportionate number of pot arrests impact people of color.

A Nixon spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.

A year after calling pot a “gateway drug,” Cuomo this year has ordered a state study into the issue of legalizing marijuana. He has argued that with Massachusetts having already legalized it and New Jersey considering it, the issue has changed.

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