Here’s the article in full and it suggests to us that Albany is way behind the ball with its recent dithering. Time to make some decisions say DA’s Cyrus Vance Jr & Davis Soares
Here’s what they say, in full and they couldn’t be more direct if they tried.
As the district attorneys for Albany County and Manhattan, it is our duty to uphold justice and public safety on behalf of our upstate and downstate communities. Alarmingly, the state’s continued failure to legalize marijuana has perpetuated significant racial injustices while constraining law enforcement resources. In the final days of session, Gov. Cuomo and state legislators must correct staggering inequities and promote public safety by passing the Marijuana Revenue and Taxation Act.
In the last two decades alone, more than 900,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for marijuana possession. These arrests reflect rampant discrimination, specifically against New Yorkers of color. In New York, black people are 10 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, with 80% of all statewide marijuana arrests targeting black and Latino residents. This staggering disparity in arrests exists despite similar rates of use across demographics.
Marijuana arrests, even in cases that don’t lead to conviction, create lifelong obstacles to employment and economic security. Individuals arrested for possession subsequently struggle to access housing, student loans, professional licensing and government benefits. An arrest for possession, even one without jail time, is not simply an inconvenience but rather a life-altering event with irrevocable consequences.
Full legalization, rather than decriminalization, is required to meaningfully advance social justice and address discriminatory enforcement. Last year, both of our offices enacted policies to declineto prosecute marijuana cases. But even after these reforms, in the Capitol Region, hundreds of black and Hispanic residents have been arrested on possession charges, and in New York City, similar disparities in marijuana arrests and summonses persist.
New York is already one of the largest markets for marijuana in the world. By failing to legalize the substance, legislators have allowed the illicit market to flourish and seek out teenagers. Moreover, the lack of regulatory controls in the illicit market can increase adult consumers’ exposure to dangerous synthetic cannaboids, needlessly putting lives at risk. Effective marijuana regulations, including childproof packaging and standardized labeling, will also help keep our kids safe.
Strong regulatory controls have allowed other states to responsibly legalize marijuana. Notably, youth usage rates have remained stable or declined in states with legal marijuana, and available data has shown no significant increase in criminal activity, traffic fatalities or drug addiction. Educational awareness campaigns, as we’ve seen with alcohol and tobacco, have proved far more successful in reducing teen use than prohibition.
It is also critical to note that legalization is expected to generate at least 30,000 new jobs, create an annual economic impact of $4.1 billion and produce an estimated $1.3 billion in annual state tax revenue. Employment opportunities and a robust economy play an important role in promoting public safety. Portions of that tax revenue can also be allocated to law enforcement to expand their capacity.
For too long, inaction on marijuana legalization has harmed communities of color and drained the resources of public safety officials, including law enforcement and prosecutors. And if the latest polls are any indication, a strong majority of residents across the state — including from upstate and suburban communities — agree that it’s time for New York to move forward.
In the interest of racial justice and public safety, Gov. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie must work together to pass marijuana legalization before the end of session.