The current policy of marijuana prohibition is a failure - one that wastes valuable law enforcement resources and disproportionately affects communities of color. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.1527) would allow personal use by those over the age of 21, and empower the State Liquor Authority to regulate marijuana like it does with alcohol.
Eliminating penalties for marijuana use will put an end to discriminatory drug enforcement policies that disproportionately impact African American and Latino communities. Whites ages 18-25 are actually more likely to use marijuana than African Americans or Latinos of the same age, yet nationwide, African Americans are nearly 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites. In New York City in the first eight months of 2014, 86% of the people arrested for marijuana possession were African Americans and Latinos; African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at 7 times the rate of whites, and Latinos at nearly 4 times the rate of whites. Our current unjust laws are branding nonviolent New Yorkers, especially young adults and people of color, as criminals, creating a vicious cycle that ruins lives and needlessly wastes taxpayer dollars.
Limited law enforcement resources can and should be better used elsewhere. In New York, more than 97 percent of marijuana arrests are just for possession, and in 2010, there were more than 100,000 of these arrests in the state. $678.5 million was spent statewide in 2010 arresting and jailing mostly young people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, often giving first-time, non-violent offenders an extraneous criminal record. The sheer volume of arrests shows just how gross a waste of city and state resources the current policy has become – we’re wasting police time and taxpayer dollars to ruin lives, without making our state any safer.
Ending marijuana prohibition will take the market away from criminal enterprises, as happened when alcohol prohibition ended in 1933. Current law has not been able to make a significant dent in the sale of marijuana in the United States, but it has contributed to the growth of domestic and international criminal organizations that thrive on the illegal drug trade. Regulation is a practical alternative whose time has come, even from the perspective of those who would otherwise prefer marijuana to remain illegal.
Regulating and taxing marijuana sales would provide additional revenue for the state, as well as economic development opportunities. Analyses vary, but the upper range of estimates suggests a direct benefit to the state of $764 million in tax revenue, and indirect benefits and savings of approximately $1 billion. The New York State marijuana market could represent as much as a $3 billion industry and lead to the creation of 25,000 new jobs.
To show your support for the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, sign the petition below and tell your Senator that it's time to end the failed and costly policy of prohibition.