The Health Commissioner of New York, Howard Zucker, recently announced that a long-awaited study by the Cuomo administration will recommend the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adult use. The study is believed to be at least partly in response to gubernatorial primary candidate Cynthia Nixon’s strong support of marijuana legalization.
Mr. Zucker also announced that the Health Department will issue regulations to allow patients who have been prescribed opioids to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program. Not all patients can qualify under the existing chronic pain provision, since opioids may also be prescribed for severe but short-term pain, such as after surgery. The New York Senate also passed a bill to do the same, as well as to allow patients with opioid use disorder to qualify.
While the state’s legislative session is ending soon, New York is moving closer to ending marijuana prohibition!
In other news, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, under increasing pressure to address the racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests, announced a new policy designed to reduce arrests and give more tickets instead. Unfortunately, the policy, which will take effect September 1, has so many exceptions its impact may be limited.
We’ve known for years that marijuana laws disproportionately harm people of color, but the results of a recent New York Times investigation are still shocking. According to the report:
- Black New York City residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites; Hispanic residents are five times more likely.
- During the first three months of this year, 89% of the 4,000 marijuana arrests in New York City were Black or Hispanic.
It doesn’t make sense to arrest an adult for possessing or consuming marijuana, but the racial disparities in these arrest rates make the injustice of marijuana prohibition even more intolerable.
The situation in New York City is so morally indefensible that the Manhattan district attorney announced his office will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana cases, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is directing police to stop arresting people for public consumption of marijuana.
Those are positive steps, but the solution is to repeal the destructive policy of marijuana prohibition.
Well, another celebrity was arrested for using marijuana. Do you feel safer?
R&B singer Robin Thicke was arrested today near Madison Square Garden when they saw him smoking a joint inside an SUV. He was ticketed and released.
Now, since police actually witnessed him smoking, this arrest is far more legitimate than the improper marijuana possession arrests of tens of thousands of New York City residents during “stop and frisk” actions.
Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized in New York, and criminal charges should only be brought if the marijuana is openly displayed or used in public, which was the case here. Recently, however, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had to issue a directive to the NYPD to actually obey the law and stop tricking people into pulling their marijuana out of their pockets to warrant a criminal charge.
The fact remains that arresting Robin Thicke for misdemeanor marijuana possession does not make the community safer. While police were busy arresting a non-violent entertainer (and having him sign autographs), a crime with an actual victim most likely went unseen and unpunished.