NYPD Ties Marijuana Trade to Violence, But Critics Say Law — Not Drug — Is to Blame: Debate Sparked by Today’s Daily News Cover Story

Press Release June 6, 2000
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Shayna Samuels at 212 547 6916 or Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

Prohibition of marijuana, not the drug itself, is to blame for the tragic violence described in the Daily News’ cover story “It’s Reefer Madness for Real,” say drug policy experts.

The article, which appeared in the June 7 edition of the New York tabloid, reports that the marijuana trade is “fueling the kind of bloodshed that crack cocaine did a decade ago,” and that a more aggressive police crackdown is planned in response.

But critics of current marijuana law, pointing to numerous studies demonstrating that marijuana use does not in itself make people aggressive or violent, assert that crime results entirely from the fact that marijuana is illegal.

“There’s nothing inherently violent or criminogenic about marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, a leading drug policy institute. “The recent violence is entirely a result of New York’s policy of punitive prohibition of marijuana.”

“Likewise, if we criminalized alcohol or tobacco the way we do marijuana, New York’s murder rate would skyrocket,” Nadelmann said. “Ever heard of Al Capone?”

Nadelmann and other drug policy critics also pointed out that the Daily News exclusively interviewed police and prosecutors, who claim that tougher enforcement is the answer to New York’s marijuana problem. Others, not interviewed for the story, sharply disagree.

“Over 40,000 people were arrested last year in New York City for marijuana offenses – a nearly ten-fold increase from 1990 – and the result is more, not less, violence. We should abandon this madness and look for sensible alternatives,” Nadelmann added.

Nadelmann said that marijuana policies in the Netherlands and a growing number of other European countries offer promising models. “The Dutch have worked out a policy of de facto legal regulation of cannabis markets. Their approach isn’t perfect, but the result is less marijuana use than in the United States, with virtually no arrests for marijuana possession and no ‘marijuana-related’ crime.”

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

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