Isn’t it weird that one of the most democratic, most liberal and socially tolerant places, one that collects some of the most forward-thinking people on this planet, is running behind schedule when marijuana legalization is concerned? One would have thought so, but the situation regarding marijuana legalization in New York is rather complicated.
What’s Going on Behind the Curtains?
It wasn’t until 2009 that the pernicious Rockefeller Drug Laws were repealed. The laws, which were passed during the white-panic days in the 1970’s, imposed brutal mandatory minimum prison sentence for traffickers. However, the situation is still not good. The New York Police Department has embraced stop-and-frisk policies that allowed them to stop and question pedestrians. According to Wikipedia, the Stop-Question-and-Frisk program in New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department “by which police officers stop and question hundreds of thousands of pedestrians annually, and frisk them for weapons and other contraband.” It seems as if the vast majority of these pedestrians were African-American and Latino people. Consequently, this has made New York the capital of racially biased marijuana arrests.
The War on Weed – Expensive, Racist and Failed
For years, anti-drug-war advocates have tried to explain that arresting people for possessing certain substances as a result has overcrowded prisons, wasted resources and most of all – destroyed families and communities. Yet so little has changed. In fact, the drug arrest rate for marijuana possession was about 5% higher during Obama’s administration than the average during G.W. Bush. One might assume that billions of dollars were wasted on racially biased arrests – which is exactly what the American Civil Liberties Union did and wrote in their new study on “war on marijuana”.
Drugs – a Hot Potato for Politicians
In the past seven years the State Assembly in Albany has passed five different marijuana decriminalization measures, only to see them die each time in Senate. It seems as if this is a topic that no politician wants in their hands or on their schedule. One thing that could make the marijuana topic irresistible is the money that could be made from it. Businesses in Colorado, a marijuana friendly state, are already lobbying in Albany for their access to a massive market that can be found only in New York. Ironically, now there is a certain Republican and a New York state assemblyman, who was arrested for speeding while in possession of a small bag of pot last year and who is now advocating for decriminalization of the precious plant. His name is Steve Katz and we certainly hope this means the tide is shifting for New York City.