Marijuana Reform in New York

Personal possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana has been decriminalized in New York State since 1977. However, law enforcement officers have still arrested hundreds of thousands of people for possessing marijuana “in public view” – particularly people and color – due to a loophole that allows officers to distinguish between public and private personal possession.

The Facts

  • Over the past 20 years, New York has become the marijuana arrest capital of the world, with nearly 800,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
  • On average, more than 60 people are arrested every day for marijuana possession in New York State.
  • While marijuana consumption and sales occur at similar rates across racial and ethnic groups, Black and Latino individuals are arrested for possessing marijuana at vastly disproportionate rates. In 2016, more than 80% of all those arrested statewide were Black and Latino.
  • Marijuana arrests hinder people’s ability to succeed and participate in society by preventing them from obtaining employment, housing, and student loans.

Learn more from our fact sheet (PDF).

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is working to end these racially biased marijuana arrests for good. Because of our work, marijuana arrests have dropped from nearly 51,000 to under 20,000. While arrests have decreased statewide, marijuana arrests are still ruining lives.

Ending Marijuana Prohibition in New York

Start SMART NY – Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade – is a campaign dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition in New York. The campaign aims to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice. DPA created this campaign in partnership with groups dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition.

Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel of Latino Justice PRLDEF, speaking at the Start SMART campaign launch.

Learn more about our efforts to Start SMART in New York and join the campaign here.

Ensuring Safe Access to Medical Marijuana

In 2016, New York became the 23rd state to roll out its medical marijuana program. But this is not enough. Patients still struggle to gain access to their medication. The law has been criticized as being one of the most restrictive and burdensome programs in the country.

DPA is dedicated to securing legal access to medical marijuana for patients with chronic and debilitating illnesses in New York State. We convened Compassionate Care New York, a coalition comprised of patients, family members, and doctors that worked to expand medical marijuana legislation in New York.

In 2016, we successfully amended regulations, which now allow nurse practitioners and physician's assistants to certify patients for medical marijuana. We also advocated for chronic pain to be added as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana – a huge victory for patients and boost for the program.

Marijuana Legalization and Regulation
Medical Marijuana