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New York

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 18, 2019

    A.1617, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), has been re-introduced this legislative session. The bill would legalize the adult possession, use, and regulated sale of marijuana.

    Over the past twenty years, many New Yorkers have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition in New York. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually, the MRTA directs the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana to these communities. Because structural racism is ingrained in marijuana prohibition, it’s important that the MRTA both ends marijuana prohibition and promotes racial justice.

    Significant steps are taken in the amended MRTA to ensure racial justice and a small business-friendly industry, including:

    • Creating a micro-licensing structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, which allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
    • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
    • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.

    Our communities can’t wait. The decades of marijuana prohibition had created a stain on the fabric of our society, and urgent action is needed to begin to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs. Adult-use cannabis legalization must be passed in the state budget, and support for the MRTA goes a long way towards making that a reality. Freedom simply cannot wait any longer.

    Click here to send a message to your New York State Assemblymember in urgent support of this effort.

     

    We also encourage you to plug in with Empire State NORML. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their webpage HERE.

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  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 13, 2019

    In news that bodes well for the future of cannabis legalization in the state of New York, both chambers of the state legislature have included legalization language in their annual budget proposals.

    Both budget proposals also address the expedited expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions, implementing social equity programs in the state’s growing marijuana industry, and diverting tax money earned through the legal cannabis industry to benefit communities that have borne the brunt of the most brutal aspects of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in New York.

    Though Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal does not allow for the personal cultivation of marijuana plants, the NY General Assembly’s budget proposal does promote home cultivation upon the legalization of adult-use and retail sale of cannabis in the state. If home cultivation is included in final legislation and is signed into law by the governor, New York would help reinvigorate legislative support for the practice, which has waned considerably in other east coast states that are exploring legalizing cannabis for adult-use.

    The legal allowance of home cultivation in private residences is a core tenet of NORML’s Attributes of Adult Access Regulations. Read about home cultivation and our core tenets here.

    Though it remains to be seen if the Empire State will legalize cannabis for adult-use in 2019, we cannot let up in our fight for the personal freedoms of New Yorkers. As always, we need your help to make sensible marijuana reform a reality in New York.

    Click here to send a message to your state lawmakers in support of cannabis legalization in New York.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director December 20, 2018

    While lawmakers in Albany continue to explore the intricacies of legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana in New York, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced a plan to expunge low-level marijuana convictions from criminal records. In a recent interview with CBS New York, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez had this to say. “I do not believe these cases keep us safer. They cause a lot of distrust in our justice system. We all here know there is a tremendous racial disparity in respect to how these cases have been enforced in the past.”

    Following the announcement from the District Attorney’s Office, David C.  Holland, Esq., Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML, weighed in on the DA’s decision. “Justice is being vindicated by District Attorney Gonzalez through his actions by openly acknowledging that cannabis was and is not the source of social ills or disruption. Rather, his actions continue to help the Empire State continue to move to responsible use legislation as communities and individuals most impacted by the misguided drug war may become innovators and leaders in this new green industrial era. ”

    For months, state legislators and officials with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office have been soliciting feedback from stakeholders and hosting roundtable meetings with the hope of drafting legislation for next year’s legislative session that’s scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. In addition to discussions about tax revenues and health and public safety, many are urging lawmakers to include language that would allow for the expungement of past marijuana convictions and expansion of re-entry programs to those disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.

    Most recently, Governor Cuomo outlined his agenda for 2019 which prioritizes the legalization of adult-use marijuana and establishment of a tax and regulate program. During his remarks, the Governor also expressed his full support for restorative justice provisions that would begin to address the many injustices of marijuana prohibition. With Democrats controlling both chambers of New York’s legislature, it’s likely Governor Cuomo will have the support he needs to deliver on his promise.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. For more information follow Empire State NORML on Facebook and Twitter and visit their website!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director December 10, 2018


    Up until a few years ago low-income housing that received federal subsidies were required to maintain a “drug-free” environment. This meant that if anyone living in subsidized housing was caught possessing and/or consuming marijuana onsite, everyone living in the property was at risk of being evicted.

    Fortunately, in 2014 the Obama Administration amended this policy to no longer mandate evictions which provided some discretion to housing management. As a result, the decision is now left to property management so they can insist on a “drug-free” environment, but are not required by law to impose such restrictive policies.

    Unfortunately, due to inconsistencies between the various policies adopted by property management companies and limited knowledge of the law, marijuana patients residing in subsidized housing are losing their homes. A situation that is becoming all too common. Most recently, John Flickner, a 78-year-old wheelchair bound medical marijuana patient, was evicted from his low-income senior housing facility in Niagara Falls for using medical marijuana that was recommended by his physician.

    In response, Lynne Patton, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regional official announced that she is working to resolve the ongoing conflict between federal and state marijuana laws as it applies to tenant rights in federally-subsidized housing.

    “State & federal law needs to catch up with medicinal marijuana usage & require private landlords to legally permit the same. Period,” Patton wrote. “Regardless, my team is already working with Mr. Flickner & a local grantee to place him in permanent housing again, as anyone else in his boat.”

    Read more here: https://www.marijuanamoment.net/trump-official-wants-to-legally-permit-medical-marijuana-in-federally-subsidized-housing/

    That’s why NORML is supporting the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act, which would prohibit property owners of federally assisted housing from establishing standards to prevent access to federally assisted housing to anyone who engages in the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana as long as they are in compliance with state laws.

  • by NORML July 13, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaA state-commissioned study released today by the New York Department of Health recommends replacing cannabis criminalization with a policy of adult use legalization.

    The 74-page study, entitled “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” acknowledges the following:

    “Regulating marijuana can reduce opioid use;”

    “Regulating marijuana may lead to a reduction in the use of synthetic cannabinoids;”

    “Legalizing marijuana will reduce disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of racial and ethnic minority communities;”

    “Regulating marijuana will create jobs;”

    “Marijuana regulation could generate long-term cost savings.”

    The study’s authors conclude: “A regulated marijuana program enjoys broad support and would have significant health, social justice, and economic benefits. … Regulating marijuana enables public health officials to minimize the potential risks of marijuana use through outreach, education, quantity limits at point of sale, quality control, and consumer protection. … The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

    Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Department of Health ought to be praised for taking a sober look at the available evidence and issuing sensible policy recommendations. Criminalizing adults who use cannabis is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern — but it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

    He added: “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. Our laws should reflect this reality, not deny it, and lawmakers should govern and regulate the marijuana market accordingly.”

    This announcement comes in the midst of an opioid and heroin overdose epidemic in the United States.  New York City experienced 937 overdose deaths in 2015, 1,374 in 2016, and approximately 1,000 in 2017, once all numbers are finalized and verified.  Statewide, New York saw 8,444 hospitalizations from all opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 2,185 in 2015.

    Legalization will also lessen the racial disparities in arrest among white people and people of color.  This change in policy will let those who self-medicate with marijuana to receive a medical card and will less their fear of being arrested for marijuana possession.  In the first three months of 2018, 89% of those arrested in New York City for marijuana possession were black or Hispanic, despite survey evidence that people of several races smoke cannabis at similar rates.  Over the last three years in New York City, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at a rate eight times that of white people.  In Manhattan, this ratio surges to fifteen.  Despite a similar number of calls to 911 and 311 (an NYC helpline), marijuana arrests are higher in those city precincts whose populations are predominantly people of color.

    The full text of the study is available online here. The executive summary is online here.

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