Marijuana Legalization Approaching Tipping Point in New York

Press Release May 15, 2018
Media Contact

Melissa Moore 646-470-2827
Tony Newman 646-335-5384

Severe racial disparities in marijuana arrests and calls for marijuana legalization are generating an avalanche of news in New York.

The Drug Policy Alliance is currently leading a campaign, Start SMART New York, to legalize marijuana in New York for adult use, with a focus on racial, social and economic justice. We are available to comment on the numerous stories being talked about right now, including:

Below is a statement from Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“The conversations about overpolicing of marijuana in primarily communities of color and the economic potential that legalization represents are clearly intertwined. The way in which New York legalizes marijuana must be responsive to our legacy as the marijuana arrest capital of the world. With tax revenue estimates of more than $1 billion, New York policymakers must prioritize repairing the harms caused by prohibition in committees of color across the state, as the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act proposes.

“The recent NY Times investigation highlights again what multiple reports from the Drug Policy Alliance have shown: the enforcement of marijuana prohibition has been carried out in a systemically biased way that has had devastating effects on communities across New York State, primarily those of color and low-income communities. Prohibition enforcement has saddled hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records that yield significant collateral consequences for them—and their families–including limited access to housing, employment, and education opportunities.

“Marijuana prohibition has also been a justification for a drastic increase in policing activities in certain communities. Ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use is the smart choice for New York communities because it will alleviate one of the biggest causes of negative interactions with law enforcement. Legalizing marijuana will also provide an opportunity, due to the revenue it will generate, for the communities that have been most devastated to start to repair the harms of the drug war.

“As NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s just-released study shows, legalizing marijuana for adults over the age of 21 is a sound economic investment for the state of New York. In the states with existing regulated markets, previously static economies have experienced a new small business boom, job growth, and benefits to a wide variety of ancillary industries. Given the Comptroller’s findings that the majority of marijuana consumed in New York is outside of NYC, a regulated marijuana market could also provide opportunities for small businesses in small towns across the state to cultivate a business model that is not reliant on access to large amounts of capital but is instead dependent on local resources and entrepreneurs’ own ingenuity and creativity.

“Crucially, regulating this industry with provisions to ensure diversity in licensing and employment represents a critical first step toward repairing the harms of the drug war and alleviating the disproportionate burden that communities of color have borne as a result.”

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

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