Statement on Marijuana ‘Decriminalization’ and Expungement Law Going into Effect in New York

Press Release August 28, 2019
Media Contact

Contact:
Matt Sutton 212-613-8026

New York, NY – Below is a statement from Melissa Moore, Deputy NY State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, on the marijuana ‘decriminalization’ and expungement law going into effect today in New York.

“The inability of the state legislature and Governor Cuomo to pass comprehensive marijuana legalization means that Black and Latinx individuals remain disproportionately in the crosshairs of harmful marijuana enforcement. Decriminalization alone is not enough to deal with the full impact of marijuana prohibition and just gives law enforcement discretion. Actually addressing the legacy of harm from prohibition and targeted enforcement by comprehensively legalizing and reinvesting in communities is what policymakers need to deliver on. While it is disappointing that our leaders have once again failed to prioritize racial justice in New York, we will continue to fight on behalf of comprehensive reforms. 

“The expungement provision passed by lawmakers will provide a measure of relief to deal with the 900,000 arrests for marijuana charges that took place in New York under the marijuana arrest crusade. However, it is critical that this bill is not mistakenly understood as a ‘decriminalization’ measure, despite how lawmakers have advertised it. Under the bill, wide-ranging instances of marijuana possession will remain a legal violation, allowing law enforcement the discretion to continue making arrests. As we’ve seen in the years following New York’s so-called decriminalization of marijuana in 1977, anything short of comprehensive legalization means that Black and Latinx individuals will remain disproportionately in the crosshairs of harmful enforcement practices.”

“Of critical importance, this bill also fails to address the collateral damages of prohibition, including affected individuals’ access to employment, housing, address family separations, immigration rights, and other avenues to economic security. Given the extensive, life-changing inequities created by discriminatory and draconian enforcement policies, true justice requires the allocation of tax revenue to community reinvestment programs for impacted communities. We are incredibly proud of our communities and supporters for generating the momentum necessary to force legislators to pass a law authorizing automatic expungement. While it is disappointing that our leaders have once again failed to address marijuana criminalization wholesale, we will continue to fight on behalf of comprehensive marijuana reform in New York.”

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