We, the undersigned, call for an end to the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition. We support the emergence of a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in providing safe access to an already widely-used substance that is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco and has been proven to have substantial medicinal uses. And we call for an end to the continued waste of state resources for the purposes of enforcing marijuana prohibition for the reasons enumerated below.
Marijuana prohibition has not been effective in stopping or remotely curbing marijuana usage. Marijuana remains the most widely used illegal substance nationally, with half of Americans admitting having tried the substance in their lifetime. Despite this widespread experimental user, the rate of regular use has not changed significantly since the 1980s, steadily remaining at about 1 in 8 Americans – despite significant increases in enforcement over that time.
Marijuana prohibition has not increased public safety. According to a Human Rights Watch report published in 2012, people who enter the criminal justice system with an arrest for public possession of marijuana are no more likely to be threats to public safety than someone who has not been arrested.
Marijuana prohibition has been disproportionately enforced in communities of color and has led to devastating collateral consequences. An arrest and conviction for a marijuana offense can prohibit individuals from fully participating in society, inhibiting their ability to get a loan, get a job, go to college, or to access public housing, among other negative impacts. Statewide, people of color have borne these collateral consequences at alarming rates, with Black and Latino people representing 80% of those arrested for simple posession in 2016 alone, despite equal rates of use across populations.
Marijuana decriminalization is not enough. New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977—yet more than 800,000 people have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the past 20 years alone. Although New York officials, including Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously recognized these arrests as ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, they still continue across the state because of a loophole in the law. Ending prohibition would end these arrests.
Ending marijuana prohibition is a cost-saving measure. Legalizing marijuana will drastically improve the state’s ability to make investments that benefit and advance all New Yorkers, such as education, housing, and infrastructure. In 2010, New York spent more than $650 million enforcing marijuana prohibition. Those resources went to increased policing in communities of color, resulting in more than 50,000 marijuana arrests for simple possession that year, usually only for small amounts of marijuana.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (A. 3506 – Peoples-Stokes / S. 3040 – Krueger) will address the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and work to undo some of its negative results. Through the MRTA, we can inhibit access among minors, increase access for those with medicinal needs, put state tax dollars to better use, create new jobs, and generate millions in tax revenue to be used, in part, to support communities that have been most harmed by marijuana prohibition.
We call on the New York State Legislature and the Governor to support the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (A. 3506 – Peoples-Stokes / S. 3040 – Krueger) to bring an end to marijuana prohibition and to repair the harms that it has caused in communities across the state of New York.