NY Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Has Limited Impact for Communities of Color

Joe Kukura SAVE THIS

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There’s a lot to applaud about the recent marijuana decriminalization bill approved by the New York State Legislature. The new marijuana law expunges prior marijuana arrests and convictions, clearing past offenses for nearly a million New Yorkers. However, the root causes of those marijuana arrests are still in effect. Black and Brown communities disproportionately affected by marijuana prosecutions cannot expect the same benefits as their white counterparts.

New York’s decriminalization bill seemed like a consolation prize that came out of nowhere after a failed recreational cannabis measure. State Senator Jamaal Bailey and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes put the bill together quickly to stop the over-prosecution of marijuana offenses in communities of color. African Americans are eight times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges in New York City, and 74 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana in upstate New York.

“These convictions of low-level marijuana crimes…

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