Reducing the Harms of Marijuana Prohibition

Marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs. Nearly half of all drug arrests each year are for marijuana-related offenses, the overwhelming majority of which are for personal possession. These arrests fall disproportionately on blacks and Latinos, even though white people use marijuana at similar rates. Many of those who are arrested are saddled with a criminal conviction that can make it difficult or impossible to vote, obtain educational loans, get a job, secure housing, or even adopt a child. Additionally, the huge number of marijuana arrests each year usurps scarce law enforcement, criminal justice, and treatment resources at enormous cost to U.S. taxpayers.
 
The Drug Policy Alliance works to reduce the number of marijuana related arrests and associated penalties through crafting and advocating for legislation removing or reducing criminal penalties, initiatives making marijuana arrests the lowest law enforcement priority, and community based policy changes.  
 
DPA also works to expose and reduce rampant, system-wide racial disparities in marijuana arrests. DPA has released reports documenting and detailing chilling disparities in New York City and across California and continues to raise awareness about the unique burden U.S. marijuana policy places on black and Latino communities.
 
Marijuana prohibition has also caused incalculable violence and destruction by fostering an illegal marijuana market.  Organized crime, drug cartels, and gangs are the greatest financial beneficiaries of marijuana prohibition. In Mexico, illegal marijuana sales have contributed to the loss of tens of thousands of lives.

Why is Marijuana Decriminalization Not Enough?

April 15, 2014

Decriminalization of marijuana possession is a necessary first step toward a more comprehensive reform of the drug prohibition regime. However decriminalization alone does not address many of the greatest harms of prohibition – such as high levels of crime, corruption and violence, massive illicit markets and the harmful health consequences of drugs produced in the absence of regulatory oversight.

Just a Slap on the Wrist? The Life-Changing Consequences of a Marijuana Arrest

April 15, 2014

Marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs. In 2012, there were 749,825 marijuana arrests in the U.S. – nearly half of all drug arrests. Almost 90 percent of these arrests were for simple possession, not sale or manufacture. Blacks and Latinos are arrested at vastly disproportionate rates, even though white people use and sell marijuana at similar rates. A marijuana arrest is no small matter – the arrest creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be found by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies and banks.

Drugs and Prisons in Uruguay: The Case for a Regulated Marijuana Market

WOLA, Washington Office on Latin America

In Uruguay, the consumption of drugs, including marijuana, is not punishable with prison time. Even so, the cultivation of marijuana for personal consumption is a crime. When she was 66 years old, Alicia Castilla was put in jail for three months for cultivating marijuana, for her research and for her own personal consumption (to sleep better). In this video testimony, she talks about the suffering caused by her imprisonment in Canelones (an Uruguayan prison) and her experience with the justice system in Uruguay.

Belize to Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

Belize Announcement on Heels of Uruguayan President's Proposal to Legalize and Sell Marijuana

Statement from DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann: Alternatives to Prohibition Growing Trend in Latin America and Caribbean

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240

Ethan Nadelmann on CNN: Drug War Debate

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, debates the war on drugs with Kevin Sabet, former senior advisor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), on CNN.

Colombia to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Cocaine and Marijuana for Personal Use

Colombia Part of Growing Trend in Latin America; Last Week President of Uruguay Called for Legal Regulation of Marijuana

Colombia’s Constitutional Court today approved the government’s proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana for personal use. Anyone caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or one gram of cocaine for personal use may receive physical or psychological treatment depending on their state of consumption, but may not be prosecuted or detained, the court ruled.

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240

Chicago City Council Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance: Tickets Instead of Arrest for Low-Level Possession

DPA Statement: Step in Right Direction, But Devil is in the Details

The Chicago City Council passed – by a vote of 43 to 3 -- an ordinance today that will decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. People who are caught with under half an ounce of marijuana will now face fines between 250 and 500 dollars instead of being arrested.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy came out in support of the ordinance earlier this month and have talked about the need to free up police resources to fight more serious crime.

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240

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