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.

Ethan Nadelmann on caught up with DPA's Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann at DPA's re:FORM Art Auction in Los Angeles, where he pointed out that the only way to move forward on marijuana legalization is for states to start taking risks by abandoning prohibition laws and setting up the conflict with the feds.

What Would Your Group Do With $75 Million?

April 18, 2012
Drug Policy Alliance

In March 2011, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives released a major report about the cost of marijuana possession arrests in NYC — at $75 million a year, the costs is quite high.

DPA and IJJRA asked groups across NYC how they would like the City to spend $75 million, instead of arresting people for marijuana possession. This fact sheet details their responses.

Marijuana Arrests in NYC

April 18, 2012
Drug Policy Alliance

Despite New York state decriminalizing marijuana possession in 1977, New York City is the marijuana arrest capital of the world. Recent changes in policing practices that take advantage of a loophole in the law led to over 50,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2010 and 2011. This issue brief examines New York's marijuana laws, the impact of policing policy and practices, and solutions that would save the state over $75 million a year.

Testimony by Professor Harry G. Levine Regarding Marijuana Arrests in New York City

May 31, 2007
Harry G. Levine
At Hearings of New York State Assembly Committees On Codes And On Corrections, Albany, New York

Testimony by Queens College Sociologist Harry Levine regarding the high number of marijuana possession arrests in New York City, and the collateral consequences of this police enforcement policy.

An Analysis of Alternatives to New York City's Current Marijuana Arrest and Detention Policy

October 6, 2007
Bruce D. Johnson, Andrew Golub and Eloise Dunlap
National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.

Marijuana Arrest Crusade, Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York City: 1997 – 2007

April 1, 2008
Harry G. Levine and Deborah Peterson Small
New York Civil Liberties Union

Marijuana in New York: Arrests, Usage, and Related Data

November 5, 2009
Jon Gettman
The Bulletin of Cannabis Reform

Federal Activist Toolkit

We can make a powerful impact by urging our members of Congress to end failed drug war policies. They care what their constituents have to say.
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