Marijuana Prohibition is Ending in New York as the State Becomes a National Leader for Reform
Albany, NY – After years of organizing, the New York State Legislature overwhelmingly approved the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.854-A/A.1248-A), a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use, in a historic vote.
Melissa Moore, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“Make no mistake about it, New York has made history today by ensuring marijuana reform is on track to become the law of the land. Through the hard work of people impacted by prohibition, advocates and champion lawmakers, like Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger, New York has taken bold action to put a nail in the coffin of the war on drugs.
This law comprehensively addresses the harms of overcriminalization and establishes one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization programs in the nation. Through this sweeping legislation, New York is delivering reforms that place community reinvestment, social equity, and justice at the core of the law.
We will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure implementation is a success for all New York communities and look forward to the Governor's signature on these historic reforms as soon as possible. At long last, victory is here.”
Kassandra Frederique, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who formerly led the New York marijuana campaign, said:
“This day is certainly a long time coming. When we started working toward marijuana reform 11 years ago, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Because of the sheer extent of harm that had been inflicted on Black and Brown communities over the years, any marijuana reform that was brought forth had to be equally comprehensive to begin repairing the damage.
And I can confidently say, the result--thanks to the tireless work of DPA, our legislative partners and other advocates--is something truly reimaginitive. We went from New York City being the marijuana arrest capital of the country to today New York State coming through as a beacon of hope, showing the rest of the country what comprehensive marijuana reform--centered in equity, justice and reinvestment--looks like.
We urge the Governor not to wait a moment longer to ensure justice for the communities that have been most harmed by prohibition by signing these historic reforms and swiftly beginning implementation.”
For years, DPA has been on the forefront working to reduce marijuana arrests statewide, allow medical marijuana and legalize marijuana for adult use. With its Start SMART NY campaign, DPA has worked to end marijuana prohibition in New York and create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was first introduced in the New York State Legislature in 2013, and the Drug Policy Alliance has been supporting the call for adult-use legalization and regulation since the initial conversations with the bill sponsors, Senator Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, more than 8 years ago.
In the 2019 legislative session, advocates were extremely close to passing marijuana legalization in the state budget, but when there was a lack of commitment to community reinvestment from the Governor, legislative champions Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes and Senator Krueger continued pushing for full marijuana justice or no deal. The 2019 legislative session ended without adult-use legalization, but a separate bill established expungement for the first time in New York State for low-level marijuana arrests because of relentless pressure from advocates.
The barebones pandemic budget of 2020 scrambled marijuana reform efforts, but DPA persisted by organizing with allies across multiple movements throughout the year in recognition of the way that marijuana prohibition has had devastating impacts in so many areas of people’s lives across the state.
In 2021, DPA worked closely with advocates, communities impacted by prohibition and lawmakers to reach the finish line and see the legislature pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act with robust provisions for addressing prior harms of criminalization, groundbreaking social equity architecture, and significant community reinvestment of cannabis tax revenue. Through advocacy and mobilization, DPA redoubled its efforts and helped achieve a goal that was decades in the making: marijuana reform that puts equity, community investment and justice front and center in New York.