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New York: State Assembly Passes Legislation To Seal Past Marijuana Possession Convictions

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Bill is First Step Toward Comprehensive Plan to Redress Harms of the War on Drugs in Communities of Color

As Legislative Clock Winds Down, Advocates and Assemblymembers Urge Senate to Quickly Pass the Companion Bill in the Senate

The New York State Assembly on Wednesday voted in support of A10092, a bill that will seal the criminal records of people who have been unjustly and unconstitutionally arrested for simple possession of marijuana in public view. The bipartisan vote was 92 in favor and 34 opposed.

Over the last 20 years, more than 700,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for simple possession of marijuana. Those convicted face significant barriers to accessing education, employment, housing opportunities, and other state services.

“I introduced the marijuana sealing bill because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction,” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist.

"Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years," Peoples-Stokes said. "It is an approach that has never worked and has caused significantly more harm than good to our communities and to our families.

New York: Patients And Families Demand Changes To New York's Flawed Medical Marijuana Law

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Dozens of medical marijuana advocates gathered in Albany today to encourage legislators to support several bills to amend New York's medical marijuana law, the Compassionate Care Act. been criticized for being one of the most restrictive and difficult programs in the country.

The program was implemented in January of this year, and so far only 494 of the state's 79,000 physicians have agreed to participate. Only 2,390 patients have been certified by their physicians to enroll in the program. This extremely slow start is most likely due to a number of barriers and restrictions in the program that make it both difficult and unpleasant for both patients and physicians to participate.

“The current law is simply too narrow, with too few registered organizations serving too few patients who need relief,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, sponsor of the original legislation. “The changes the Executive made to the legislation and to the program severely limited the program and have made it harder than it should be for patients to access critical medical care. These bills would bring the law more into line with the original bill – broadening the list of eligible conditions, expanding the number of dispensaries, and removing arbitrary restrictions on delivery methods such as smoking.”

New York: NYC Marijuana Possession Arrests Drop Under 17K; First Time Since '96

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67% Drop from 51,000 Arrests in 2011

Still A Tale of Two Cities: Young Black and Latino People Arrested at Higher Rates, Despite Young White People Using Marijuana at Higher Rates

According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996. The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42 percent decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67 percent drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.

“New York is finally starting to shed its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Over the last twenty years, more than 700,000 lives were irrevocably harmed by our draconian marijuana arrest policies. We must repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers.”

In 2015, with the continuous advocacy of community members, advocates, and elected officials – the New York Police Department made 16,590 arrests for low level marijuana possession, down from a high of 26,386 in 2014. This continues a four year trend of declining marijuana possession arrest by the NYPD.

U.S.: VOCAL-NY and Gretchen Burns Bergman To Receive Activist Award at Drug Policy Reform Conference

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Leading Drug Policy Reformers to be Honored at International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, November 21

The Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action in the Field of Drug Policy Reform will be awarded to VOCAL-NY and Gretchen Burns Bergman at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference on November 21 in Arlington, Virginia.

VOCAL-NY is one of the most effective grassroots membership organizations in the country, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "They weave together a broad range of social justice issues, including working to end the war on drugs," the DPA announced in a press released.

"They have helped reduce New York’s unconstitutional and racially-biased marijuana arrests, raised awareness about overdose prevention, and restored the rights of formerly incarcerated people," according to the DPA. "Their organizing model, centered around the leadership and voices of those most impacted and those most stigmatized – people who use drugs, people living with HIV/AIDS, people of color, people who are formerly or currently incarcerated, or people who live in low-income communities – makes VOCAL-NY vital to the conscience of our movement."a

New York: City Council Holds Hearing On Synthetic Cannabinoids

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Amid Disappointing Conversations around Criminalization, Advocates Push for a Comprehensive Public Health Strategy to Deal with Synthetic Drugs

The New York City Council Committee on Public Safety on Monday held hearings about the growing concern surrounding synthetic cannabinoids. The hearings were held jointly with the Committees on Health and the Committee on Mental Health; Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services; and the Committee on Consumer Affairs

Recently, there have been several media reports of public drug use involving synthetic cannabinoids, such as spice and K2. Synthetic cannabinoids are a class of cannabinoid chemicals typically sprayed over plant matter and packaged with names like “K2,” “Spice” and “Green Giant.”

These are only the latest “legal highs” to come on the market that simulate the effects of prohibited drugs like marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA), opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine. In the past, as these kind of substances have been banned, manufacturers have simply invented new variations of the same substances to skirt the bans as well as for legitimate scientific purposes.

While synthetic cannabinoids are used by a wide range of people, media accounts have focused on their use by people who are homeless and/or criminal justice involved. The substances usually do not show up in drug tests that are sometimes required for people to access shelters or social services that require abstinence from illicit drugs, like marijuana.

New York: Gov. Cuomo, Politicians Return To Failed Drug War On Synthetic Cannabinoids

KassandraFrederiqueDrugPolicyAlliance[BlogTalkRadio]

Advocates: New Yorkers Need a Public Education and Health Approach to Deal with Emerging Drugs

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued regulations and the New York State Senate introduced a bill that would criminalize the sales of synthetic cannabinoids.

Recently, there have been several media reports of tragic episodes involving synthetic cannabinoids, such as spice and K2. Epidemiological reports suggest an increase in hospitalizations due to these substances.

Synthetic cannabinoids are a class of cannabinoid chemicals typically sprayed over plant matter and packaged with names like “K2,” “Spice” and “Green Giant.” These are only the latest “legal highs” to come on the market that simulate the effects of prohibited drugs like marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA), opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine.

In the past, as these kind of substances have been banned, manufacturers have simply invented new variations of the same substances to skirt the bans as well as for legitimate scientific purposes.

“New York needs to find effective, evidence-based strategies for responding to problematic use of these substances," said Kassandra Frederique, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Unfortunately, however, to date, the response from the media and from elected officials has been to employ failed drug war strategies and rhetoric.

New York: NYC Council Holds Hearing On Bill To Reorient Drug Policy Toward Health, Safety

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A new New York City drug policy agency would focus as much on health as on policing under a proposal a lawmaker has introduced to shift how the nation's biggest city approaches illegal drug use.

The proposed legislation would create an office to coordinate drug strategy between dozens of city agencies and the community. It emphasizes evidence-based policy making to promote health and public safety and reduce the negative impact of past or current policies.

The drug strategy office would advise city leaders on lowering drug-related deaths and disease along with crime, reports Jennifer Peltz at ABC News. It also would coordinate answers to a problem that sometimes seems to pit one set of government objectives against another, supporters say.

WHAT: Press conference and rally in support of Intro 748, which would create an Office of Drug Strategy, to be immediately followed by a NYC Council hearing on the bill.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 23, 9:00 am EST

WHERE: Steps of New York City Hall

WHO: NYC elected officials and community groups representing public health, drug treatment, mental health, and legal aid providers, and individuals directly affected by current NYC drug policy.

New York: de Blasio Administration To Make Reforms To Non-Criminal Summons System

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Common Sense Changes Will Make Summons System Easier to Navigate and More Transparent, and Will Allow City to Track and Address Racial Disparities

Changes Announced After Months of Negotiations with Community and Advocacy Groups

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) on Tuesday announced plans to revise parts of the NYC Summons process. The announcement comes after advocates voiced key questions and concerns about Mayor de Blasio’s announcement last November that individuals would receive summonses instead of being arrested for low level marijuana possession in public view.

Advocates expressed concerns about the overburdened and complex summons court system, biased police practices, collateral consequences of summonses, and lack of data transparency. The plan announced on Tuesday includes a new NYPD summons form, website, and automated call-in system to help New Yorkers more easily navigate the NYC Summons court system.

In an October 2014 report, Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor De Blasio’s Two New Yorks: The NYPD Marijuana Arrests Crusade Continues in 2014, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance noted the de Blasio Administration was on track to meet or surpass the Bloomberg 2013 marijuana arrests. Following the report’s release, the de Blasio Administration announced that New Yorkers found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.

New York: City Council Issues Formal Call For Legalizing Marijuana

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The New York City Council this week called for the state of New York to pass historic legislation to both decriminalize and to tax and regulate marijuana.

As part of the Council’s State Budget and Legislative Agenda for the 2015-2016 legislative session, the New York City Council urged the Legislature to pass two historic marijuana policy reforms – the Fairness and Equity Act and the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA). The Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito had previously announced her support for marijuana legalization in November, but this marks the first time that marijuana decriminalization and legalization have been part of the Council’s official legislative agenda.

The Fairness and Equity Act -- sponsored by Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Robert Rodriquez -- would finally fix New York’s decriminalization law regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana, ending racially biased marijuana arrests. The Council noted that the Act would “end the unnecessary and disproportionate arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers by ensuring that possession or sharing of small amounts of marijuana can never result in a criminal penalty.”

The proposal includes additional provisions to meaningfully address the devastating collateral consequences and historic legacy of these arrests and reduce institutional racial bias across New York’s criminal justice system.

New York: Legislators Hold Forum On Taxing And Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol

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Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyperson Crystal Peoples-Stokes on Wednesday sponsored a public forum about the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

Under the proposal, those over 21 would be able to purchase small amounts of marijuana from a state-regulated store. The bill would rectify the many problems associated with marijuana prohibition, including the arrests of tens of thousands of primarily young people of color.

“There is no question that New York’s marijuana policies are broken,” said Kassandra Frederique, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Each year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are swept into the maze of the criminal justice system for nothing more than possessing small amounts of marijuana.

"Enforcement of these policies is focused almost entirely focused on young people, primarily young people of color, such that our laws are now applied differently to different people based on the color of their skin and their income level – this must stop,” Frederique said.

The hearing comes amidst a wave of marijuana policy reform nationally. Four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana for adult use.

At the federal level, Congress has just passed and President Obama on Tuesday signed the omnibus bill that contained an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

U.S.: 'Safety First' Book Offers Parents' Guide To Legalization, Drug Education

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New Bilingual Editions of Seminal Safety First Publication Offer Pragmatic Drug Education Strategies, with New Sections on Adolescent Brain Development and Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana legalization is raising fresh questions – and many age-old ones – for parents and others who play important roles in the lives of teenagers.

On Thursday, December 4, the Drug Policy Alliance is releasing new, updated English- and Spanish-language editions of the seminal publication, Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs by Marsha Rosenbaum, PhD. Safety First has provided hundreds of thousands of parents with the tools needed to foster open and honest dialogue with their children around the risks and consequences of drug use.

DPA is planning to reach many more parents and educators in light of the nationwide momentum in favor of marijuana legalization and other drug policy reforms.

New York: NYPD Poised To Stop Low-Level Marijuana Possession Arrests

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Individuals Would Instead be Ticketed and Ordered to Court

Advocates Cautiously Optimistic, But Key Questions and Concerns Remain

An article on the front page of Monday's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.

This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket.

New York: NYPD Continues Quixotic, Discriminatory Marijuana Arrest Crusade

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From March to August Under de Blasio/Bratton, NYPD Made More Marijuana Possession Arrests than Bloomberg/Kelly in Same Period of Previous Year

Extreme Racial Disparities Persist as Blacks and Latinos Make up 86% of Marijuana Possession Arrests, Despite Young Whites Using at Higher Rates

A new report released on Monday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance shows that, despite campaign promises, marijuana possession arrests under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are on track to equal – or even surpass – the number of arrests under Mayor Bloomberg. As under the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, these arrests are marked by shockingly high racial disparities.

The report, "Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s Two New Yorks: the NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Crusade Continues in 2014" draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and shows that despite a change in mayoral administrations and police commissioners, the NYPD continues its practice of making wasteful, racially biased, and costly marijuana arrests.

U.S.: Netroots Nation To Address Failed Drug War

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Friday Panel: Marijuana Arrests: The Gateway to Mass Incarceration

Marijuana arrests and mass incarceration will take center stage at Netroots Nation 2014 this week in Detroit.

On Friday, July 18 at 4:30 p.m., the ninth annual gathering of progressive voices will feature a panel, “Marijuana Arrests: the Gateway to Mass Incarceration.” The panel will feature Kassandra Frederique, a policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

Frederique is currently organizing with groups around the state of New York to address bias policing practices, unlawful marijuana arrests and collateral consequences of criminalization.

“I’m thrilled to see Netroots Nation examine the failed war on drugs and how marijuana arrests fuel mass incarceration,” Frederique said. “Netroots Nation is a cutting-edge incubator of ideas and I’m excited to have a rich discussion during the panel and action from folks afterwards.”

Every 48 seconds someone is arrested for marijuana possession in the United States. Most of these arrests are of people of color, despite the fact that white people use and sell marijuana at higher rates. In this panel they will explore how the Drug War and biased policing practices fuel marijuana arrests and, in turn, mass incarceration.

New York: Can Mayor-Elect De Blasio End The War On Drugs In NYC?

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Saturday: “Talking Transition” Event Brings Together Treatment Providers, Drug Users, Civil Rights Activists, Academics, and Elected Officials to Map New City Drug Policy

Future Drug Policy to be Based in Equity, Health and Safety rather than Racism, Criminalization and Violence

New Yorkers on Saturday, November 16, will gather to map the future of the city’s drug policies for progressive champion Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and a new, increasingly progressive City Council. As part of the innovative Talking Transition series, New Yorkers have a unique opportunity to envision new drug polices based in equity, health and safety, rather than drug policies rooted in racism, criminalization and violence.

Hundreds of New Yorkers -- students, cultural workers, academics, advocates, community organizers, young people, treatment providers, civil rights activists and others -- will break into small groups, to come up with solutions to a range of issues such as: racially biased marijuana arrests, lack of effective treatment, legal access to medical marijuana and overdose prevention strategies. The recommendations emerging from the Ending the New Jim Crow forum will be delivered to the new de Blasio Administration for consideration.

Ending the New Jim Crow: Mapping the Future of Drug Policy in NYC
When: Saturday, November 16, 2013
Time: 2:00 -- 3:30pm
Where: Talking Transition Tent at the corner of Canal St. and 6th Avenue, Manhattan

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