New York City Council Issues Formal Call For Decriminalizing And Legalizing Marijuana

NEW YORK:  This week, the New York City Council called for the state of New York to pass historic legislation to both decriminalize and to tax and regulate marijuana. As part of the Council’s State Budget and Legislative Agenda for the 2015-2016 legislative session, the New York City Council urged the state legislature to pass two historic marijuana policy reforms – the Fairness and Equity Act and the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA). The Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito had previously announced her support for marijuana legalization in November, but this marks the first time that marijuana decriminalization and legalization have been part of the Council’s official legislative agenda.

The Fairness and Equity Act — sponsored by Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Robert Rodriquez — would finally fix New York’s decriminalization law regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana, ending racially bias marijuana arrests. The Council noted that the Act would “end the unnecessary and disproportionate arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers by ensuring that possession or sharing of small amounts of marijuana can never result in a criminal penalty.” The proposal includes additional provisions to meaningfully address the devastating collateral consequences and historic legacy of these arrests and reduce institutional racial bias across New York’s criminal justice system.

The Council also threw its support behind the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act — sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Crystal People Stokes — which would end prohibition by creating a system to regulate, control, and tax marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older. The Council noted that the MRTA would “would reduce the racially disparate impact of existing marijuana laws and end the cycle of branding nonviolent New Yorkers as criminals,” while generating millions of dollars in new revenue and saving millions of dollars in criminal justice resources each year.

Committee On Drugs And The Law Present The Future of Marijuana Law in New York City Wed 1/28/15

NEW YORK: On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, the Committee on Drugs and the Law and the New York City Affairs Committee will host an open discussion of the past, present and possible futures of cannabis law in New York City.

Featured panelists include Stephen Levin, New York City Council, District 33; Jumaane D. Williams, New York City Council, District 45; and Nitin Savur, Deputy Chief of Trial Division in Charge of Criminal Courts, Office of the New York County District AttorneyModerator: Patricia Salkin, Dean and Professor of Law, Touro Law Center

Public attitudes and laws governing the use of cannabis have been changing fast and creating challenges and opportunities for policymakers at the state and local level.

The changes in New York State during 2014 were especially great. A new statute legalized certain limited uses of cannabis for medical purposes and the Department of Health has released draft regulations for public comment. After attempting in 2012 to convince the State legislature to expand the scope of New York’s cannabis decriminalization statute, New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance endorsed the de Blasio administration’s announcement that the New York City Police Department will issues summonses for possession of personal-use amounts of cannabis open to public view instead of making arrests. Earlier, Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson announced that his office will not prosecute first-time offenders for possession of personal-use amounts.

Meanwhile, if proposed legislation that would regulate cannabis like alcohol succeeds, it will require adjustments to state and local law far broader than those necessary to create the newly legalized medical-use-only cannabis market.

The event sponsors include the Committee on Drugs and the Law and the New York City Affairs Committee.