New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently addressed his state legislature on the state of things in New York. In the speech he highlighted the need for marijuana law reform to reduce the massive costs of prohibition, both in state resources and in human costs.
“It’s not fair, it’s not right. It must end, and it must end now,” the Governor said during his call for reform. He also cited the racial disparities in marijuana arrests, with minorities being arrested at a much higher rate than whites.
“I hope Senator Skelos and the entire legislature heard Governor Cuomo loud and clear when he said it’s time to end marijuana arrests that ‘stigmatize and criminalize’ young people of color, one of the leading consequences of stop and frisk,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo, VOCAL-NY’s Civil Rights Organizer. “Governor Cuomo is right: these arrests mean more than a just a night in jail. They can have lasting effects on a person’s access to jobs, housing and a better future.”
Back in 1977 the legislature decriminalized small amounts of marijuana possession, but despite that, over 600,000 arrests have taken place in New York for possession in the last 15 years; most of those taking place in New York City.
Governor Cuomo does have some support for marijuana law reform, including NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, all five New York City district attorneys, Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard and others. He also called for an end to the practice of “stop and frisk” in the Big Apple and elsewhere.
“With stop and frisk and marijuana arrests, too many of our young people are swept up in the criminal justice system,” said Kyung Ji Kate Rhee, juvenile justice director at the Center for NuLeadership. “Governor Cuomo’s reform proposal, once passed, is an important step to help us secure a brighter future for our youth. Instead of wasting money on unlawful marijuana arrests, we can invest in community development and provide resources that support our youth in reaching their best potential.”
Many states are realizing that arresting people for small amounts of marijuana possession is wasteful at best. At worst, it is a destructive force, especially in urban areas where the arrests are used to suppress certain segments of society.
And in the end, if an adult is not infringing on the rights of anyone else, they should not be considered as committing a crime. They need to be left alone, as they are leaving everyone else alone. Sending them through the criminal justice system only teaches them how to be an actual criminal; our jails breed violence and the notion of taking the easy way out.
- Joe Klare