NEW YORK – The New York Department of Health is reporting that pot prohibition criminalizes minorities, according to The Washington Post. The report also showed that prohibition disproportionately incarcerates minorities and says that marijuana legalization will decrease the disparities.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) instructed New York agencies to assess health, economics, criminal justice, and the public safety impact of regulating marijuana in the state. The New York Department of Health report recommended that the state include a provision addressing prior marijuana possession convictions due to the over-prosecution of marijuana crimes in communities of color.
The New York Times reported that the NYPD arrested Black people in Manhattan at 15 times the rate of Caucasians, prompting the District Attorneys from Manhattan and Brooklyn to announce that they will no longer prosecute for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Over-prosecution of marijuana possession in minority communities has had a significant, negative impact on education, housing, and employment opportunities.
California legalized marijuana on Jan. 1 with a provision in the law that requires minor marijuana convictions to be expunged if the individuals who were convicted petitioned the court.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is erasing thousands of marijuana convictions going back to 1975 automatically without defendants needing to petition the court. Gascón is also looking at nearly 5,000 felony cases to possibly reduce and throw out sentences. The New York Department of Health report is recommending a similar law.
New York Department of Health Finds Marijuana Can Decrease Opioid Use
The assessment also found that legalizing marijuana can decrease opioid use in the state. Regulating marijuana can reduce both legal and illegal opioid use, and marijuana is an effective pain medication. Representatives from the New York Department of Health say that marijuana has decreased the number of opioid prescriptions written and can assist people detoxing from opioids.
The state could also benefit from the tax revenue generated from marijuana regulation. The New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer estimates that legalizing marijuana in New York could be worth at least three billion dollars, noting that New York City alone could generate $335 million from pot taxes. New York state would earn an annual tax revenue of half-a-million dollars annually.
The assessment concludes that the positive effects of regulating marijuana outweigh the potential negative impacts and recommends ending pot prohibition for criminal justice and public health.