The movement to legalize marijuana is rooted in the racist history of the war on drugs. While marijuana consumption and sales occur at similar rates across racial and ethnic groups, Black and Brown people are arrested for possessing marijuana at vastly disproportionate rates.
Marijuana arrests hinder people’s ability to succeed and participate in society by preventing them from obtaining employment, housing, and student loans. Decades of these racially discriminatory arrests have devastated Black and Latinx communities in New York while leaving thousands of people stigmatized with criminal records.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has worked to end these racially biased marijuana arrests and in March 2021, New York enacted one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the country.
New York’s marijuana policies have been a profound and costly failure. DPA created the Start SMART NY – Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade – campaign in partnership with groups dedicated to ending the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and create in its place a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.
DPA and our allies in the Start SMART NY campaign helped to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). This allows the responsible use of marijuana by adults 21 and over within a tightly regulated system.
Smart regulation can support community well-being and safety while building a diverse, socially equitable industry that strengthens all parts of our state.
What Does the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.854-a/A.1248-a) Do?
New York’s legalization centers racial and economic justice by:
It is now legal for adults 21 and over in New York to:
In 2016, New York became the 23rd state to roll out its medical marijuana program. But this is not enough. Patients still struggle to gain access to their medication. The law has been criticized as being one of the most restrictive and burdensome programs in the country.
DPA is dedicated to improving legal access to medical marijuana for patients with chronic and debilitating illnesses in New York State. In 2016, we successfully amended regulations, which now allow nurse practitioners and physician's assistants to certify patients for medical marijuana. We also advocated for chronic pain to be added as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana – a huge victory for patients and boost for the program.
MRTA improves the medical marijuana program by expanding the forms of cannabis available in the program, increasing the qualifying conditions, and much more.