Press Release  | 05/21/2013

Wednesday: Community Groups, Elected Officials Gather in Albany For Press Conference and Rally to Demand Legislators Fix Broken Marijuana Possession Law

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New Poll: At Least 60% of All Voters Continue to Call for Fixing Marijuana Possession Laws, Including Half of Republicans; Poll is Third This Year Showing Strong Majority Support For Reform

Thousands More New Yorkers Have Been Arrested – at Cost of Estimated $7.5 Million – for Possessing Small Amounts of Marijuana Since April 1 When Reform Talks Failed During Budget Negotiation

Albany: On Wednesday, May 22nd, members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus will gather with commuity groups to demand an end to the biased and costly practice of falsely arresting tens of thousands of people in New York for low-level marijuana possession every year. Dozens of advocates and impacted people from around the state will join them at a press conference and rally to urge passage of sensible marijuana decriminalization legislation, A.6716A (Camara)/S.3105A (Squadron). The proposal, introduced at the request of Governor Cuomo, would decriminalize possessing up to 15 grams of marijuana in public view, though smoking in public would remain a misdemeanor. Community members and elected officials are demanding that leadership in Albany make fixing this law a top priority. The bill would help end the practice of arresting tens of thousands of young people per year for possessing marijuana in public view when police demand that someone “empty their pockets” during a stop-and-frisk encounter.

What: Press conference with Caucus members, community groups, and people impacted by the costly, unlawful and racially biased marijuana arrests crusade in NY
When: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at 1 p.m.
Where: Million Dollar Staircase, Capitol Building, Albany, NY
Who: Scheduled to attend: Members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus, with community members from around the state

Background

Sensible reform was slated to pass during the budget cycle at the end of March, but in typical Albany fashion, confusion among leadership in the capital stymied the effort. As a result of this failure, thousands more people have been needlessly arrested – most of them Black and Latino – costing taxpayers millions of dollars and wasting an estimated 10,000 police hours. Approximately 45,000 people were arrested in New York for marijuana possession in 2012 alone; nearly 40,000 of those arrests were in New York City, far exceeding the total marijuana arrests for the fifteen-year period from 1981-1995. The cost to taxpayers was nearly $75 million last year alone, and over $600 million in the last decade, a profound waste of taxpayer money. And these arrests are extraordinarily racially biased, as nearly 85% of those arrested are Black and Latino – mostly young men – even though government studies show that young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Fixing the law and standardizing penalties will bring us closer to ending racially discriminatory marijuana arrest practices focusing our limited resources more effectively.

A new poll released Monday by the Sienna Research Institute found that 60% of New Yorkers support the proposal to fix the state’s broken marijuana possession law, making it the third poll this year to register at least 60% support for the measure. The reform proposal outlined by Governor Cuomo is supported by dozens of community organizations throughout the state, state legislators, the NYC Council, and Mayor Bloomberg. Additionally, the reforms are supported by law enforcement leaders from across the state, including NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly; all five NYC District Attorneys (Democrat and Republican); District Attorneys from Long Island, Buffalo and Albany; and other police leaders, like the Albany Sheriff and Rochester Police Chief. The New York Times, the Daily News, the New York Post, the Syracuse Times-Standard, and the Buffalo News are among the papers that have written editorials in support the of the reform.

A report released this March by the Drug Policy Alliance found that the NYPD spent 1 million hours making arrests for marijuana possession between 2002-2012. The report found that police spent an average of 2.5 man-hours on such arrests, amounting to 98,045 hours in 2012.

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or gabriel sayegh 646-335-2264

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