The New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance works to promote sensible drug policies and to build a movement to end the drug war in New York City and State. Our campaigns are developed in partnership with grassroots community organizations, researchers, service providers and other advocates for reform. DPA is working on a number of campaigns to shift New York’s drug policy away from the criminal justice system and towards a public health and safety approach.
DPA is dedicated to securing legal access to medical marijuana for patients with chronic and debilitating illnesses in New York State. To that end, DPA is part of a coalition called Compassionate Care New York comprised of hundreds of patients, family members, and doctors working to pass medical marijuana legislation in New York.
Over the past 15 years, New York City has become the marijuana arrest capital of the world. Even though possession of less than 25 grams has been decriminalized in New York State since 1977, more than 50,000 people were arrested in New York City for "possessing or burning marijuana in public view" in 2011. More than 84 percent of those arrested were people of color – even though young whites use marijuana at higher rates. These arrests cost NYC taxpayers $75 million last year and over $600 million dollars during the last decade. Most of these arrests are the result of illegal searches and false charges. Along with our partners at the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (CNUS) and VOCAL New York, and hundreds of people who have been impacted by these arrests, we're working to end these fiscally wasteful, racially biased and illegal marijuana arrests for good.
There is a fatal overdose crisis in New York, and in 2011, DPA and our local partners took action to save lives by passing the most far-reaching 911 Good Samaritan legislation in the country. The law encourages people to call 911 by providing a limited shield from drug or alcohol possession charges in a drug or alcohol overdose situation. Many people who are in situations where they are using drugs or drinking alcohol while underage are afraid to call 911 when someone is overdosing, fearing getting charged for drug or alcohol possession if the police come. This law will, we hope, help save lives by removing barriers to accessing emergency services. No one should be afraid to call 911 in an emergency.
In DPA is focused on implementing 2009's reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Law reform and advancing a health and public safety approach to drug policy.
In 2013, the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and DPA jointly released a Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety to Approach to Drug Policy. Based on consultations with New Yorkers across the state and an extensive literature review, the document outlines how New York can move from drug policies that are dominated by the criminal justice system and often contradictory towards a coordinated drug policy rooted in public health and aimed at improving the health and safety of individuals, families and communities.
On May 1 – 2, we invite you to join us for a symposium called “Marijuana & Drug Policy Reform in New York – The LaGuardia Report at 70.” In 1939 – on the heels of the national 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which established federal marijuana prohibition – New York City Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia called upon The New York Academy of Medicine to produce a report about marijuana. The La Guardia Committee Report: The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York was published in 1944 as one of the nation’s first systematic studies to address many of the myths about marijuana.
In May 2013, the Drug Policy Alliance and Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy convened a conference called Leading The Way: Toward a Public Health & Safety Approach to Drug Policy in New York to discuss establishing more effective approaches to drug policy in New York. The conference took place in Buffalo, New York and brought together over 200 conference participants from around the state, the U.S., and world.
In 2009, DPA and The New York Academy of Medicine co-hosted a two-day conference in New York City, titled "New Directions for New York," in order to develop joint strategies to move towards a more effective public health and safety approach to drug policy in New York City and State.
The Rockefeller Drug Laws led to unprecedented, unwarranted racial disparities in New York’s criminal justice system, and a range of collateral consequences for marginalized communities of color. The premise behind racial and ethnic impact statements is to address those potential consequences before adopting new policies. DPA’s New York Policy Office is exploring how racial and ethnic impact statements might be implemented in New York to begin to address racial disparities in criminal justice policies and laws.
The Affordable Care Act presents a remarkable opportunity to shift drug policy towards a public health framework. In 2013, the Drug Policy Alliance, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union, released a report Healthcare Not Handcuffs: Putting the Affordable Care Act to Work for Criminal Justice and Drug Law Reform to provide guidance on the major provisions of the ACA and how they can be applied to drug policy. DPA is committed to ensuring that drug use is addressed through a health-based approach.
For more information, or to get involved, please contact our New York office.
If you are interested in applying for an internship with the New York policy office, get more information here.
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