Advocates Double Down on Calls for Marijuana Justice and Community Reinvestment, Call MRTA Only True Path to “Decriminalization”

Press Release June 18, 2019
Media Contact

Jeremy Saunders, 917-676-8041, [email protected]
Follow updates: @StartsmartNY

New York, NY (June 18, 2019)—With only a few days remaining in New York’s state legislative session, leading civil and racial justice organizations are forcefully advocating for the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MTRA). The organizations have produced a joint statement highlighting the extensive shortcomings of a standalone decriminalization bill, and urging Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to pass the MRTA before the end of session. 

The statement was signed by the following groups: Alliance for Quality Education, Brooklyn Defender Services, Citizen Action of New York, Communities United for Police Reform, Drug Policy Alliance, Empire State Indivisible, JustLeadershipUSA, Latino Justice PRLDEF, Make the Road New York, NAACP, True Blue NY, VOCAL-NY, and New York Working Families Party.

The full text of the statement is as follows:

“The legislature has recently presented a bill that would serve as an alternative to comprehensive marijuana legalization. That bill has been pitched as a ‘decriminalization’ measure that would meaningfully address staggering racial inequities and systemic social injustices rooted in prohibition.”

“In truth, the alternative measure is not an acceptable substitute for the comprehensive reforms that the MRTA would accomplish. Under the ‘decriminalization bill’, racially biased arrest rates for marijuana possession, as well as for violations of parole and probation tied to prior convictions for possession, would continue and non-citizens would remain at risk. The bill would also fail to implement automatic expungement, and instead would force those affected by prohibition to navigate burdensome and costly bureaucratic processes that are limited to only certain categories of low-level arrests. In short, the collateral consequences of marijuana criminalization that devastate our communities would continue to exist.”

“Any measure falling short of the MRTA will provide inadequate relief from racially biased arrests and would fail to create a regulated system for the already existent marijuana market in New York. Marijuana has been decriminalized in New York since 1977, and various county district attorneys have suspended prosecutions for marijuana possession in their jurisdictions, and yet discriminatory and draconian enforcement against New Yorkers of color has continued. Meanwhile, the MRTA would create 10,000 to 20,000 jobs; generate roughly $300 million in revenue initially; and begin to finally repair the harms of broken marijuana laws and the injury done to Black and Latino communities across this state.”

“Governor Cuomo, Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie: We call on you to bring marijuana justice to New York State by passing comprehensive legislation that legalizes marijuana, creates an equitable and well-regulated industry, provides for automatic expungement and reinvests funds in communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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