June 22, 2018

As Trump-Era Drug Policies Continue To Target Communities Of Color For Low-Level Marijuana Possession, Senator Gillibrand And Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes Push Legislation To Legalize Marijuana

In Buffalo, Black and Latino Communities Make Up 50 Percent of the Population, Yet Make Up 86 Percent of the Arrests for Marijuana Possession, Despite National Studies that Show Nearly Equal Rates of Marijuana Use; Public Support for Marijuana Legalization is at an All-Time High, With Over 60 Percent of Americans Supporting Legalization

Buffalo, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today stood with Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes at Legal Aid in Buffalo to push legislation to legalize marijuana and help reverse decades of failed drug policies that have disproportionately hurt communities of color and low-income communities in New York and across the country. Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes has been a champion of this issue and has passed legislation in the State Assembly to permit the sealing of certain marijuana convictions in an effort to curb the long-lasting effects of criminal records.

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities,” said Senator Gillibrand“Just one minor possession conviction could take away a lifetime of opportunities for jobs, education, and housing, tear families apart, and make people more vulnerable to serving time in jail or prison down the road. The reality that my 14-year-old son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana is shameful. Legalizing marijuana is a social justice issue and a moral issue that Congress needs to address to help fix decades of injustice caused by our nation’s failed drug policies.” 

“While legislative session just ended, the findings released from the NYS Dept. of Health study are very promising and supportive to our quest for recreational legalization. I have sponsored the MRTA (Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act – A.3506) for four years. As interest and attention continues to build, we must ensure that our intended framework stays intact: criminal justice reform and a look back to sealing records from previous charges, community re-investment and economic inclusive opportunities for communities of color negatively impacted by the war on drugs, and funding proper public education and substance abuse treatment services,” stated Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.

Gillibrand has met with families throughout New York to hear firsthand just how much the failed war on drugs has hurt communities of color and low-income communities. Black and Latino communities make up 50 percent of the population in Buffalo, yet make up 86 percent of the arrests for marijuana possession. Nationwide, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates that Black Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white peers, despite nearly equal rates of marijuana use.

Gillibrand announced in February that she supports the Marijuana Justice Act, landmark legislation that would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level. It would also expunge the records of Americans who have prior marijuana possession convictions.

Specifically, the Marijuana Justice Act would do the following:

  • Make marijuana legal at the federal level;
  • Create incentives for states to change their outdated marijuana laws;
  • Expunge convictions related to use or possession; and
  • Create a fund that would reinvest in communities that have been most affected by broken marijuana policies by investing in job training programs, educational opportunities, public libraries, community centers, and other programs to improve communities.

A record number of Americans support legalizing marijuana. A poll released this week from the Center for American Progress (CAP) shows that 68 percent of American voters support marijuana legalization.