Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gov. Cuomo: End Marijuana Arrests That Stigmatize And Criminalize

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York called for reforming state marijuana possession laws that waste millions of dollars and are racially biased. Republicans in the state senate refused to act on Cuomo's attempt last year to decriminalize possession. One hopes that he can succeed in ending the needless arrest of thousands, especially minority youths in New York City:

In his prepared written statement, the governor referenced the original intent of the marijuana possession law from 1977: “The legislature finds that arrests, criminal prosecutions, and criminal penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities of marihuana for personal use. Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives and wastes millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime.”

Today, marijuana possession is the number one arrest in New York City. The governor cited the harmful outcomes of these arrests – racial disparities, stigma, fiscal waste, criminalization – and called on the legislature to act: “It’s not fair, it’s not right. It must end, and it must end now.”

...The need for reform is abundantly clear: In the last 15 years, over 600,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, mostly in New York City. More than 50,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in the City in 2011 alone, far exceeding the total marijuana arrests from 1981-1995. Most of those arrested, nearly 85%, are Black and Latino, mostly young men – despite federal government data on drug use showing that whites use marijuana at higher rates. The costs of these arrests to taxpayers is at least $75 million a year.

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