Start SMART New York

Why We Should End Prohibition

In a country characterized by a punitive approach to marijuana policy, the state of New York has some of the harshest enforcement practices. New York’s decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana still operates within the framework of prohibition, allowing profound harms to be inflicted upon the state and its residents. Here are some of the symptoms of New York’s broken marijuana policies.

New York’s Marijuana Policies Are Broken

Skyrocketing arrests



Over the past twenty years, New York has become the marijuana arrest capital of the world, with nearly 800,000 marijuana possession arrests and summonses in New York – more than any other state. The lack of statewide reform means that every year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers continue to be swept into the criminal justice system.

Collateral Consequences


People arrested or ticketed for simple marijuana possession face a range of collateral consequences with long-term damaging effects – even when there is no conviction – including being denied access to housing, educational opportunities, and, most regularly, being denied access to employment opportunities. These obstacles can seriously hinder an otherwise law-abiding individual’s ability to succeed and participate in society.

Racial inequality



New York’s Black and Latino populations combined account for a little more than a third of the state’s total population. Yet more than 80% of the people arrested annually for marijuana possession across New York State are Black or Latino, mostly young men, despite young white men being more likely to use marijuana.  There is no evidence to suggest that these racial disparities in arrests will cease without reform, as this trend continues today.

Prohibition by the Numbers

Marijuana Arrests in 2016

Marijuana possession arrests in New York State
Marijuana possession arrests in NYC

Of those arrested in 2016, more than 80% were people of color, despite similar rates of use across racial lines.

Take Action

Without reform, New York will continue to fall behind changing public opinion and responsible policymaking regarding marijuana. It is time for New York to fix its broken marijuana policies and repair the harm caused by the war on drugs. It is time to end prohibition.