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.

The Cost of NYC's Marijuana Possession Arrests in 2010: $75 Million

Marijuana Possession #1 Arrest in NYC, Comprise 15% of All Arrests; Majority of Those Arrested Are Black and Latino Youth

City Council Members, Community Groups Hold Press Conference at City Hall to Issue Major Report, Discuss Economic and Human Toll of Skyrocketing Arrests

NEW YORK: A new report released today at City Hall finds that arrests for marijuana possession cost New York City taxpayers approximately $75 million each year. The report, titled "$75 Million A Year", documents the astronomical financial costs of marijuana possession arrests in New York City. Major findings from the report include:

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Gabriel Sayegh at 646-335-2264

2010 NYC Marijuana Arrest Numbers Released: 50,383 New Yorkers Arrested for Possessing Small Amounts of Marijuana

Marijuana Possession Offenses are #1 Arrest in NYC, Comprise 15% of All Arrests; Majority of Those Arrested Are Black and Latino Youth

Juvenile Justice and Drug Policy Reform Groups Mobilizing To End Racist, Costly Arrests

NEW YORK -- Recently released figures by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services show that in 2010, the New York City Police Department arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses. Arrests for low-level marijuana possession offenses are the number one arrest in New York City, making up 15 percent of all arrests. On average, nearly 140 people are arrested every day for marijuana possession in NYC, making the Big Apple the "Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World."

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or gabriel sayegh at 646-335-2264

Drug Czar Outlines President Obama's "Public Health" Approach to Drug Policy in Huff Post Piece

Drug Czar Expands on Obama's Comments on Last Week's YouTube "Town Hall" Regarding Legalization

DPA Says Drug Czar's Policies Need to Match Rhetoric: 750,000 Arrested for Marijuana Possession Last Year, No Acknowledgement of Harms from Drug Prohibition, Including Tens of Thousands of Murders

President Obama's Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, wrote a piece today for the Huffington Post where he claims the Obama Administration's drug polices are based on a public health approach and that we can't incarcerate our way out of the drug problem. The Drug Czar builds on President Obama's response last week to a question during his YouTube "town hall" where he said drug legalization is an "entirely legitimate topic for debate," even though he is opposed to it.

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper at 202-669-6430

$75 Million a Year: The Cost of New York City's Marijuana Possession Arrests

March 15, 2011
Levine, Harry G. and Loren Siegel - Marijuana Arrest Research Project
Commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance

Marijuana possession was decriminalized in New York in 1977. Yet since the 1990s, the New York Police Department's "marijuana arrest crusade" has led to the arrest of nearly 550,000 people for small amounts of marijuana.

The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States

June 30, 1999
Bonnie, Richard J, and Whitebread, Charles H.
Drug Policy Alliance

Originally printed in 1974, The Marijuana Conviction is the first comprehensive history of marijuana use and prohibition in the U.S. Bonnie and Whitebread's historical overview examines the origins and history of marijuana prohibition as well as laws' unintended consequences.

Disparity by Design: How Drug-free Zone Laws Impact Racial Disparity – And Fail to Protect Youth

March 1, 2006
Justice Policy Institute
Drug Policy Alliance

A new national report, authored by the Justice Policy Institute and commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, finds that drug-free zones fail to protect youth from drug activity, while creating high levels of racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

Arresting Blacks for Marijuana in California: Possession Arrests, 2006-08

October 2, 2010
Levine, Harry G., et al.

The Drug Policy Alliance and the California State Conference of the NAACP have released a report that documents widespread race-based disparities in the enforcement of low-level marijuana possession laws in California. In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half a million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially young men. Yet, U.S.

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