Monday, July 4, 2022
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NY Daily News: It’s Time To End Reefer Madness!

In New York, it’s getting real. You can almost taste it. Cannabis legalization appears to be getting closer to reality.

On Friday, the New York Daily News front page featured a pair of marijuana leaves with the headline blaring: “WEED THE PEOPLE.” Readers were told to turn to page 24 of the tabloid to read their editorial in full-throated support of legalizing the herb.

The jaw-dropping front page and 684-word editorial is just the latest salvo in the half-century-old War on Drugs. In just the last few weeks:

  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he will work with the NYPD to slash marijuana arrests by mid-June.
  • The New York Times reported that people of color are STILL arrested at much higher rates than whites. In Manhattan, black people were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people, according to the Times’ investigation.
  • Councilman Rory Lancman, head of the City Council’s justice committee, urged the city’s five district attorneys to stop prosecuting low-level cannabis possession cases.
  • Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon is running for governor with cannabis reform as a major plank in her platform. Her surprising early momentum has out incumbent Andrew Cuomo, no friend of cannabis activists, into a difficult political position. His anti-marijuana position will most likely have to shift if he has any chance for re-election.
  • The state’s Democratic party has already staked out its pro-marijuana position and is expected to endorse legalization at next week’s annual party convention.

There have been other subtle changes in the Big Apple, but Friday’s front page editorial endorsement in the Daily News may be a tipping point.

“Ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use is the smart choice for New York communities because it will alleviate one of the biggest causes of negative interactions with law enforcement,”said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, “Legalizing marijuana will also provide an opportunity, due to the revenue it will generate, for the communities that have been most devastated to start to repair the harms of the drug war.”

We are part of this awakening, which is why we welcome the push to legalize and regulate marijuana. By every honest measure, the substance has more in common with alcohol and tobacco than it does harder drugs that are rightly illegal.

The editorial reminds readers that way back in 1977 — 31 years ago! — the city decriminalized possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, making it an infraction with a $100 fine. But, as the piece points out:

In the intervening 40 years, hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested. Police in the five boroughs continue to make some 17,000 arrests annually for pot possession.”

And despite the fact that research shows marijuana is used in about equal numbers by whites, blacks and Latinos, blacks and Latinos make up 86 percent of arrestees. Those two groups account for just 51 percent of the city’s overall population. Even the NYPD’s chief of crime control strategies has said this gulf “should be troubling to anyone.”

 The New York Daily News editorial board concludes its argument simply: “We’ve gained little, and lost plenty, in waging this misbegotten war. It’s time to try another way.”



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