Hawkins on NY Marijuana Legalization: Decades Late, But Opportunity to Leap Ahead

Hawkins on NY Marijuana Legalization: Decades Late, But Opportunity to Leap Ahead

For immediate release, June 18, 2018

Howie Hawkins, who has advocated for the legalization of marijuana in New York for decades, welcomed today’s announcement by the NYS Health Commissioner that a soon-to-be released report will, at long last, support the legalization of recreational marijuana.

But Hawkins cautioned that the devil is always in the details.

“Even though New York decriminalized small amounts of marijuana 40 years ago, local police (especially in New York City) have used the discriminatory enforcement of the law to target people of color,” noted Hawkins.

“Cannabis legalization in our state must address a history of racist oppression wrought by the failed ‘war on drugs’, and not merely accommodate changing political and social mores of the present,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins believes cannabis legalization should include the following measures:

  • Regulate the cannabis industry to include and encourage minority- and women-owned, community-based, cooperative businesses and exclude big pharma, liquor, tobacco, and agribusiness.
  • Pardons for all non-violent drug felons and give them preference in becoming licensed sellers.
  • Regulate cannabis to encourage organic production methods and protect consumers from pesticides and chemical additives.
  • Full Re-Legalization of Industrial Hemp for any hemp grower.
  • Tax cannabis products at the normal sales tax rates, excluding homegrown, not-for-trade or sale.
  • A Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission to assess the impact of the war on drugs and mass incarceration, particularly on communities of color, and recommend policies to repair the damages.
  • State Attorney General to defend of all cannabis producers and consumers who may be prosecuted by federal law enforcement.

Based on data received from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) released findings in late April 2018 showing that the NYPD continues to violate the marijuana decriminalization law to target people of color. PROP found that the NYPD continues to arrest thousands of New Yorkers for marijuana possession, 4,081 for the first three months of 2018, over 45 per day. 93% of the NYPD's marijuana possession arrests involved New Yorkers of color. This result came despite research showing that white people use and sell the drug in equal or greater proportions than African American and Latino people.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first states to vote to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Since then, seven more states and Washington, DC, have followed.

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