Reducing the Harms of Marijuana Prohibition

Marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs. 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.

New York State Assembly Passes Landmark Legislation to Seal Past Marijuana Possession Convictions

Bill is First Step Toward Comprehensive Plan to Redress Harms of the War on Drugs in Communities of Color

As Legislative Clock Winds Down, Advocates and Assemblymembers Urge Senate to Quickly Pass the Companion Bill in the Senate

Albany — Yesterday, the New York State Assembly voted in support of A10092, a bill that will seal the criminal records of people who have been unjustly and unconstitutionally arrested for simple possession of marijuana in public view. The bipartisan vote was 99 in favor and 42 opposed. Over the last 20 years, over 700,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for simple possession of marijuana. Those convicted face significant barriers to accessing education, employment, housing opportunities, and other state services.


Tony Newman (646) 335-5384
Kassandra Frederique (646) 209-0374

Marijuana Enforcement Disparities In California: A Racial Injustice

May 31, 2016

New data analyses conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance and ACLU of California find that racial disparities in marijuana policing have persisted, following the reduction of low-level marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction in 2011.

Marijuana Infraction Enforcement Nearly 4 Times More Severe for Black Californians and 1.5 Times More Severe for Latino Californians than for Whites, Finds New DPA and ACLU Report

Black and Latino Boys and Young Men at Particular Risk, Despite Similar Marijuana Use Rates Across Racial Lines

California to Vote on Removing Criminal Penalties and Legal Regulation of Marijuana This November

May 31, 2016 (Oakland, CA) – New data analyses conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance and ACLU of California find that racial disparities in marijuana policing have persisted, following the reduction of low-level marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction in 2011. Possession of under an ounce of marijuana is punishable in California by a base fine up to $100 (plus substantial fees).


Tommy McDonald 510-338-8827
Amanda Reiman 510-730-2811

New Data Released: NYC Marijuana Possession Arrests Under 17K for First Time Since 1996, 67% Drop from 51,000 Arrests in 2011

Still A Tale of Two Cities: Young Black and Latino People Arrested at Higher Rates, Despite Young White People Using Marijuana at Higher Rates

Growing Number of Elected Officials and Advocates Call for New Statewide Approach to Marijuana Policies

New York —According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996. The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42% decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67% drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.


Kassandra Frederique (646) 209-0374
Alyssa Aguilera (917) 200-1446

D.C. Council Expected to Vote Tomorrow on Mayor Bowser's Marijuana Club Ban, Diluting the Will of D.C. Voters and Limiting Local Autonomy on Marijuana Policy

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson Pushes Bill Through the Council Despite Strong Opposition from the Public and Councilmembers

DPA: Public Favors Legal Regulation of Marijuana Clubs, Not A Ban; District residents are still fighting to have their voices heard

The Council of the District of Columbia plans to vote tomorrow on legislation that restricts adult marijuana use in the District, prohibiting marijuana consumption everywhere but the home. The legislation is opposed by a majority of District residents and a growing number of councilmembers who oppose limiting consumption of marijuana to the home, favoring instead the creation of regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana. Councilmembers are expected to offer amendments to the measure to allow a limited number of marijuana clubs in the District.


Bill Piper (202) 669-6430
Kaitlyn Boecker  (402) 670-3773

Poll: DC Residents Strongly Support Moving Forward with Regulation of Marijuana in the District

Findings Come on the Cusp of Initiative 71 Implementation Anniversary and Amid Heated Council Debate on Prohibiting Social Consumption of Marijuana 

Majority Oppose Congressional Interference with DC Law, View Marijuana Reform as a Statehood Issue, Believe Mayor Bowser Should Move to Tax & Regulate Marijuana, Support Regulated Venues for Social Consumption

WASHINGTON, D.C. –A substantial majority of District residents believe Mayor Bowser should move forward with taxation and regulation of marijuana despite Congressional prohibition, according to a survey conducted over the weekend by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Drug Policy Alliance, DC Vote, DC Working Families and the Washington City Paper. 66 percent of respondents believe the Mayor should pursue a legal method (such as use of reserve funds) to implement taxation and regulation of marijuana in the District.


Bill Piper (202)669-6430
Kaitlyn Boecker  (402) 670-3773

DC Council Committee on the Judiciary Permanently Bans Marijuana Consumption in Private Clubs

Drug Policy Alliance: “Chairman Mendelson and Mayor Bowser Rigged the Process Against the People”

Today the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on the Judiciary voted to dilute the will of District voters who approved Ballot Initiative 71 by passing unnecessary legislation largely outlawing adult marijuana use in the District. The passage of the controversial measure occurred under unusual circumstances. Almost no notice of the markup of the controversial bill was provided.


Kaitlyn Boecker  (202) 683-2987

Mexico's Supreme Court Declares Individuals Have the Right to Consume and Cultivate Marijuana

Landmark Case Could Pave the Way for Marijuana Legalization

Today, in a 4 to 1 vote, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional. The Court determined that the prohibition of the consumption of marijuana – and its cultivation for non-commercial ends – violates the human right to the free development of one’s personality. This landmark case could lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes if followed up with legislation.


Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Hannah Hetzer 917-701-7060

New DPA Report Reveals Dramatic Increase in Marijuana Possession Arrests in Virginia, Especially in Black Communities

Virginia Moving in Wrong Direction as U.S. States and Congress Reform Marijuana Laws

Black Virginians Arrested for Marijuana Possession at 3.3 Times the Rate of White Virginians, Despite Equal Rates of Marijuana Use

Report Released as Thousands Prepare to Gather Next Month in Arlington for World’s Largest Drug Policy Reform Conference

CORRECTION: Please note that a previous version of this press release contained an error that is corrected below.  From 2003 to 2013 marijuana possession arrests in Virginia increased from 13,032 to 22,948, which is a 76% increase.  The previous version said this represented only a 57% increase.


Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Lindsey Lawson Battaglia 703-909-3443

Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests in Virginia (2003-2013)

October 28, 2015

"Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests in Virginia (2003-2013)" reveals that marijuana possession arrests in Virginia have increased dramatically in recent years despite a nationwide trend in favor of reforming marijuana laws. Between 2003 and 2013, marijuana arrests in Virginia increased by 76%. Black Virginians have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana law enforcement despite constituting only 20% of the state's population and using marijuana at a similar rate as white Virginians.

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