new york marijuana cannabis

Another New York Poll Shows Strong Support For Cannabis Legalization

Most of the Uncle Cliffy team was born and raised in New York State, with many members of the team still residing there. Clifford Robinson was born and raised in Buffalo, New York where he saw firsthand the failures of cannabis prohibition.

Clifford Robinson was arrested for cannabis possession prior to attending the University of Connecticut. The arrest for a very small amount of cannabis almost derailed Cliff’s basketball playing career before it ever began. Fortunately, things ultimately worked out for Robinson but only after a nightmare scenario in which his entire future was put in jeopardy because of a plant that is 114 times safer than alcohol.

Because of his firsthand experiences, and those of other members of the Uncle Cliffy team, Clifford Robinson passionately advocates for cannabis reform in New York State. New York State is now going to be bordered by two states (Vermont and Massachusetts) and likely one country (Canada) that will have passed measures to end cannabis prohibition.

New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania are also in the midst of discussions and efforts to end cannabis prohibition, which put further pressure on New York State lawmakers to step up and get their state on the right side of history. Such a move would be supported by a majority of New York State voters, per a recent poll conducted by Siena College. Per the poll:

“With strong support from Democrats and independents, and support from every region, by a 56-40 percent margin, New Yorkers support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana,” Greenberg said. “Voters 55 and older are closely divided, while three-quarters of voters under 35 support legalization.”

The Siena College poll was not the first to find majority support for cannabis legalization in New York State. A poll from late last year, conducted by Emerson College and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance, found that 62% of New York State voters approve of cannabis legalization.

The difference between the two poll results is close enough that it can be explained by a number of factors, and should not be seen as demonstrating that support for legalization in New York is decreasing. With legalization efforts occurring on all sides of New York State’s borders, and legalization succeeding in other parts of the country, the Uncle Cliffy team expects to see support for legalization in New York State to increase in the future. Free the plant New York!

super bowl marijuana cannabis

Legal Cannabis Was Very Popular On Super Bowl Weekend

Unless you were living under a rock last weekend you know that it was Super Bowl weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in a very exciting game. Super Bowl weekend is one of the most celebrated weekends of the year in the United States, with family and friends gathering all over the country to watch the big game.

Super Bowl weekend is as American as apple pie. Another thing that is becoming as American as apple pie according to new data from last weekend is legal cannabis. Legal cannabis sales surged on Super Bowl weekend, with NFL fans stocking up before attending various gatherings. Per Green Market Report:

The Super Bowl turned into a bonus day of sales for cannabis dispensaries. According to data from software company Flowhub, retailers saw a 32% increase in cannabis sales for the 2018 Super Bowl weekend versus last year’s Super Bowl weekend.

Compared to typical weekend sales, Super Bowl weekend sales jumped 7% and transactions climbed by 12%. Flowhub said that transaction sizes were getting smaller, but the volume of people buying marijuana for the celebration had increased.

“The rise in sales over Super Bowl weekend shows that Americans are continuing to incorporate cannabis into these national celebrations just as they would beer or even guacamole,” said Flowhub CEO Kyle Sherman. “Marijuana is becoming part of the fabric of American society and our national pastimes. I think we will continue to see this trend grow as legalization continues to spread.”

This year’s jump in sales builds on a similar trend from last year. During last year’s Super Bowl weekend legal cannabis sales experienced a 40% jump compared to the same weekend the year prior. The recent statistical report demonstrates that the relationship between cannabis and sports is strong, and getting stronger with every passing year.

For the purpose of cannabis reform in the NFL specifically, this data is important because it highlights how popular cannabis consumption is among NFL fans. That popularity in consumption translates to support for cannabis reform in the NFL among the NFL’s fanbase as proven by several polls which have found that fans support allowing NFL players to consume cannabis. Polling also shows that players themselves, as well as members of sports media, also support cannabis reform.

It’s beyond time that the NFL and the leadership of other professional sports leagues recognize that prohibition has failed and to respect the overwhelming level of support for reform. Cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, and safer than a lot of other substances that the NFL and other leagues embrace. The NFL and other leagues need to free the plant.

nfl football marijuana cannabis

Super Bowl Week Reminder: The NFL Needs To End Cannabis Prohibition

It is officially Super Bowl week in the National Football League (NFL) and unless you have been living under a rock then you know that the Philadelphia Eagles are facing the New England Patriots this weekend for the NFL title. The big game presents an opportunity for friends and family to get together, to enjoy food, to have some laughs, and hopefully to see a very competitive football game.

The Super Bowl also presents an opportunity for people inside and outside of the NFL to reflect on the league’s cannabis prohibition policy. Currently, the NFL prohibits all forms of cannabis consumption, even when the consumption is in a legal state, and even when the consumption is medical in nature. That is a policy that the Uncle Cliffy team has very publicly opposed, and we will continue to do so until the NFL takes steps to free the plant.

A growing number of current and retired NFL players have been calling on the league to end cannabis prohibition altogether, or at the least allow players to consume cannabis for medical purposes in certain circumstances. The NFL has taken an uncompassionate stance against cannabis use by its players, with a prime example of that being the case of Seantrel Henderson.

Henderson, who uses cannabis to treat a severe case of Crohn’s disease, was previously suspended 10 games for failing a league drug test because of cannabis use. Players like Seantrel Henderson should not be forced to either use more harmful pharmaceuticals, go without medicine altogether, or be forced to retire from the game that he obviously loves playing. A policy that presents only those options to suffering players is unacceptable.

You can send a message to the NFL at this link here. The Uncle Cliffy team is urging everyone to send a message to the NFL to let the league know that fans support letting NFL players make the safer choice. If enough fans make it known that they support cannabis reform in the NFL, the Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that the NFL will listen. Below is a message from retired NFL players to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calling for him to free the plant:

new jersey marijuana cannabis

What New Jersey Needs to Know About Cannabis Legalization

Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson played for the New Jersey Nets from 2005-2007 and was a longtime resident of the state. Cliff witnessed firsthand the failures of cannabis prohibition in New Jersey, which is why he supports cannabis legalization efforts that are currently underway in the Garden State.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has called for cannabis legalization on a number of occasions, and polling is very favorable for adult-use legalization in New Jersey. However, a lot of hard work is ahead in order to free the plant in New Jersey. Nothing is a guarantee, which is why New Jersey residents need to contact their lawmakers.

Fortunately, there are a lot of amazing freedom fighters on the ground in New Jersey fighting very hard to get New Jersey on the right side of history. Below is more information via our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance. Please get involved if you are able:

Congress and numerous states are moving to legalize marijuana this year, building on positive outcomes in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington, D.C. In Vermont, Governor Phil Scott is expected to sign the state’s marijuana legalization bill today, making it the 9th state to legalize marijuana – and the first to do so via state legislature – in a rebuke to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded Obama-era guidance this month allowing states to implement their own marijuana laws with limited federal interference.

On Tuesday, a new report by the Drug Policy Alliance, From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization, will show how and why marijuana legalization is working so far.

On Tuesday, January 23 at 1pm (ET) / 10am (PT), DPA will host a press teleconference to discuss the report’s findings with key policymakers and elected officials:

  • Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director, Drug Policy Alliance (moderator)
  • Jolene Forman, Staff Attorney, Drug Policy Alliance (report author)
  • Reggie Jones-Sawyer, California State Assembly Member and author of the Legal Cannabis Protection Act
  • Colorado State Representative Jonathan Singer
  • Shaleen Title, Commissioner, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission

Members of the press are invited to join Tuesday’s teleconference. Please contact Tony Newman for call-in info.: 646-335-5384

From Prohibition to Progress finds that states are saving money and protecting the public by comprehensively regulating marijuana for adult use. There have been dramatic decreases in marijuana arrests and convictions, saving states millions of dollars and preventing the criminalization of thousands of people.

Marijuana legalization is having a positive effect on public health and safety. Youth marijuana use has remained stable in states that have legalized. Access to legal marijuana is associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioid use, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders. DUI arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, have declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana. At the same time, states are exceeding their marijuana revenue estimates and filling their coffers with hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Marijuana criminalization and enforcement have been a massive waste of money and have unequally harmed Black and Latino communities,” says Jolene Forman, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This report shows that marijuana legalization is working. States are effectively protecting public health and safety through comprehensive regulations. Now more states should build on the successes of marijuana legalization and advance policies to repair the racially disparate harms of the war on drugs.”

New JerseyNew York, and numerous other states have also introduced bills to legalize marijuana this year.

Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for Drug Policy Alliance states that the report provides strong support for New Jersey’s efforts to legalize marijuana.  “This report answers the questions that elected officials and the public have been asking about how marijuana legalization has worked in other states,” says Scotti.  “The findings are extremely positive and provide important lessons on how New Jersey can structure its marijuana legalization law so that it will be fair and equitable and provide benefits for all New Jersey residents.”  The Drug Policy Alliance has launched a campaign to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in New Jersey.

The report’s key findings include:

Marijuana arrests are down. Arrests for marijuana in all legal marijuana states and Washington, D.C. have plummeted, saving states hundreds of millions of dollars and sparing thousands of people from being branded with lifelong criminal records.

  • The total number of low-level marijuana court filings in Washington fell by 98 percent between 2011 and 2015.
  • The total number of marijuana‐related court filings in Colorado declined by 81 percent between 2012 and 2015, and marijuana possession charges dropped by 88 percent.
  • In Washington, D.C., marijuana arrests decreased 76 percent from 2013 to 2016, with possession arrests falling by 98.6 percent.
  • In Oregon, the number of marijuana arrests declined by 96 percent from 2013 to 2016.
  • In Alaska, the number of marijuana arrests for possession and sales/manufacturing declined by 93 percent from 2013 to 2015.

Youth marijuana use is stable. Youth marijuana use rates have remained stable in states that have legalized marijuana for adults age 21 and older.

  • In Washington, Colorado and Alaska, rates of marijuana use among high school students largely resemble national rates. These results are promising, suggesting that fears of widespread increases in use have not come to fruition.
  • In Oregon, Nevada, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., marijuana regulatory programs are not yet established or are so new that they are unlikely to have affected youth use rates in an immediately measurable way. While rates of use vary widely in these states, they have mostly stabilized or declined over the years leading up to legalization.

Marijuana legalization is linked to lower rates of opioid-related harm. Increased access to legal marijuana has been associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioids, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders.

  • In states with medical marijuana access, overdose death rates are almost 25 percent lower than in states with no legal access to marijuana, and the reductions in overdose death rates strengthened over time.
  • Legal access to medical marijuana has been associated with a 23 percent reduction in opioid dependence or abuse-related hospitalizations and 15 percent fewer opioid treatment admissions.
  • An analysis of opioid overdose deaths in Colorado found that after marijuana was legalized for adult use there was a reduction of 0.7 deaths per month in the state and that the decades-long upward trend of overdoses began to decline after 2014, the first year of marijuana retail sales in the state.

Calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency departments for marijuana exposure remain relatively uncommon.

  • In Oregon, less than one percent of calls to the state’s poison centers in 2016 were related to marijuana exposure.
  • In Colorado, less than one tenth of one percent (0.04 percent) of the state’s 2.3 million emergency department visits in 2014 were for marijuana exposure.

Legalization has not made our roads less safe.

  • DUI arrests are down in Colorado and Washington. The total number of arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, has declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to regulate marijuana for adult use.
  • There is no correlation between marijuana legalization and crash rates. The crash rates in both states are statistically similar to comparable states without legal marijuana.

Marijuana tax revenues are exceeding initial estimates. Marijuana sales in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and most recently in Nevada, began slowly as consumers and regulators alike adjusted to new systems. Once up and running, however, overall sales and tax revenue in each state quickly exceeded initial estimates. (Sales in California started on January 1, 2018, and no data are available yet. Sales in Massachusetts will not begin until July 2018. Sales in Maine are on hold pending approval of an implementation bill for the state’s regulated marijuana program. In D.C. no retail cultivation, manufacturing or sales are permitted at this time.)

  • Marijuana sales in Washington generated $315 million in tax revenues in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
  • Marijuana sales have generated almost $600 million for Colorado since sales began on January 1, 2014.
  • By the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year, Oregon collected $70 million, more than double the predicted revenue.

States are allocating marijuana tax revenues for social good.

  • Colorado distributed $230 million to the Colorado Department of Education between 2015 and 2017 to fund school construction, early literacy, bullying prevention, and behavioral health.
  • Oregon allocates 40 percent of marijuana tax revenue to its state school fund, depositing $34 million into the fund so far. The state also distributes 20 percent to alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Nevada’s 15 percent wholesale tax is projected to bring in $56 million over the next two years to fund state schools.
  • Washington dedicates 25 percent to substance use disorder treatment, education and prevention. The state also distributes 55 percent of its marijuana tax revenues to fund basic health plans.
  • Alaska will collect an estimated $12 million annually, which will fund drug treatment and community residential centers.
  • California and Massachusetts will invest a share of their marijuana tax revenues in the communities most adversely impacted by drug arrests and incarceration, particularly low-income communities of color, to help repair the harms of unequal drug law enforcement.

The marijuana industry is creating jobs. Preliminary estimates suggest that the legal marijuana industry employs between 165,000 to 230,000 full and part-time workers across the country. This number will only continue to grow as more states legalize marijuana and replace their unregulated markets with new legal markets.

The report also includes considerations for policymakers and advocates going forward:

We need to foster equity in the marijuana industry. The communities most harmed by marijuana criminalization have struggled to overcome the many barriers to participation in the legal industry. Some states and cities, however, are implementing rules to help increase equity and reduce barriers to entry in the marijuana industry.

  • Massachusetts is adopting rules aimed at ensuring that people most harmed by marijuana criminalization can participate in the regulated market.
  • In California, a prior drug felony cannot be the sole basis for denying a marijuana license. This mitigates the harms to low-income, Black, and Latino people who have borne decades of disproportionate arrests and convictions for marijuana offenses.

We need to reduce racial disparities and reform police practices. While marijuana legalization dramatically reduces the number of people arrested for marijuana offenses, it clearly does not end racially disparate policing. Police practices must be reformed to fully remedy the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws. It is widely documented that there are vast racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws. Black and Latino people are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people, despite similar rates of use and sales across racial groups.

We need to establish safe places for people to use marijuana. Consuming marijuana in public is illegal in all jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older. It is a misdemeanor in Nevada and Washington, D.C., and a civil penalty subject to fines and fees in all other states. This means that people who lack the means to pay the fines and fees, or those without homes or in federally-subsidized housing, risk being jailed for consuming a lawful substance. Public use violations are also disproportionately enforced against people of color, particularly Black people.

We need to promote marijuana decriminalization and penalty reductions for youth and young adults. In several states, marijuana legalization has had the unintended consequence of reducing historically high numbers of youth (under 18 years of age) and young adults (between 18 and 20 years old) stopped and arrested for marijuana offenses. However, these reductions are inconsistent from state-to-state. In some circumstances, youth now comprise a growing number of people charged with marijuana offenses. California’s approach is too new to be evaluated, but it appears to be a good step toward reducing youth and young adults’ risk of criminal justice involvement for marijuana-related conduct:

  • In California, youth under the age of 18 may only be charged with civil infractions for marijuana offenses. They are no longer threatened with incarceration or financial penalties. Instead, they are required to attend drug awareness education, counseling, or community service.
  • All marijuana offenses will be automatically expunged from a young person’s record when they turn 18.
  • The penalties for most marijuana-related activities were either decriminalized or reduced for young adults 18-to-20 years old.
roger goodell nfl marijuana cannabis

Gridiron Cannabis Coalition Urges Goodell To End NFL Prohibition

The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition is comprised of retired National Football League (NFL) players that know firsthand that cannabis can help treat the health conditions that many players suffer from. Because of their firsthand experiences with the wellness benefits of the cannabis plant, members of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition are speaking out against the NFL’s cannabis prohibition policy via a message (embedded below) specifically directed towards NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

With the Super Bowl right around the corner, the message is very timely. The Uncle Cliffy team would like to send a huge hat tip to these gentlemen for standing up for compassion and fighting to free the plant. You can learn more about the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition via their website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

andrew cuomo marijuana cannabis new york

New York Governor Calls For Cannabis Legalization Study

As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out in the past, cannabis legalization is overdue in New York State where Clifford Robinson was born and raised. With legalization pending in Vermont and a likely end to prohibition expected in New Jersey this year, the momentum for New York State to get on the right side of history will be greater than ever before.

To date, 8 states and Washington D.C. have already legalized cannabis. Legalization efforts are underway in a number of other states, including in the northeastern part of the United States. Every state that legalizes cannabis increases the chances of professional sports leagues ending cannabis prohibition, with New York being a particularly important domino given how many professional sports teams are located there.

This week New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the creation of a cannabis legalization study which is something that the Uncle Cliffy team hopes serves as a stepping stone for legalization, and not just a means to maintain the status quo. Below is more information about the proposed study, via our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance:

In his address on the executive budget proposal for New York state on January 16, Governor Cuomo called for a state-funded study on the impacts of marijuana legalization in the health, economic, and criminal justice realms and the projected impacts for New York of legalization in neighboring states and jurisdictions. Drug Policy Alliance and the Start SMART (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade) campaign just released two new related fact sheets, Marijuana Legalization in New York: Promising Economic Prospects and Ending Marijuana Prohibition: Impact of Legalization on Border States and Implications for New York.

Governor Cuomo’s call for studying marijuana legalization comes amid a wave of marijuana policy reform. Legislation to legalize marijuana for adult use is pending in New Jersey, where the recently-inaugurated governor has pledged to legalize marijuana in his first 100 days in office; New Hampshire’s House voted to legalize marijuana last Tuesday; and Vermont’s Senate approved a legalization bill last Wednesday, paving the way to become the first state to legalize through the legislative process (prior states were via ballot initiative). Massachusetts and Canada are in the process of implementing legalization and expect their legal markets to come online this summer.

Last week the New York State Assembly held a public hearing to discuss the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA, S.3040B/A.3506B) [video available here], a bill that would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana, legalizing the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York. The implications of legalizing marijuana for New York’s criminal justice system, public health, and the state’s economy were highlighted at the hearing, which featured testimony calling for an end to marijuana prohibition from civil rights groups, criminal justice reformers, medical researchers and doctors, regulators from states with legal marijuana, medical marijuana advocates, policing experts, immigration rights advocates, former law enforcement, and drug policy reformers.

“I am pleased that Governor Cuomo is proposing funding for a study of legalizing adult use of marijuana.  Addressing our current outdated marijuana laws is a necessary part of any criminal justice reform agenda, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned in developing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act as to how to create a more just approach to marijuana regulation. I firmly believe that New York can develop an approach to marijuana regulation that addresses public health concerns while reducing the exposure of so many people, and particularly young people of color, to interactions with the criminal justice system that have much more damaging life consequences than marijuana use,” said Senator Liz Krueger, the Senate sponsor of the MRTA.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo on agreeing to conduct a study to investigate the merits of legalizing marijuana. I look forward to the Department of Health’s report showing: the health benefits of successful pain management and social anxiety treatment, which can aid our fight in reducing the dependency on opioids; polling and other data points that confirm that the majority of New York State registered voters support legalization; creating a new inclusive economy for everyone and its respective revenue-generating potential; but most importantly for me is the expected positive social justice impact that can be had by decriminalizing marijuana. Dreams that are so often derailed by criminal records for youth of color will soon stay on track allowing them to become productive tax-paying members of our society,” stated Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, the Assembly sponsor of the MRTA.

Momentum for marijuana reform is building steadily in New York. A poll of New York voters released in late 2017 showed that 62% of New Yorkers support making marijuana use legal in New York for adults over 21, and more than 60% support taxing and regulating marijuana as a way to address the state’s looming budget deficit.

The proposed study, which Gov. Cuomo said would be conducted by the state’s Department of Health, has the potential to examine both the wide-ranging and damaging impacts of marijuana prohibition and the immensely promising economic prospects of legalizing marijuana for adult use in New York.

Legalizing marijuana for adult use in New York holds significant criminal justice reform potential. Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which is currently pending in the legislature, people who have been convicted of low-level possession (including possession in public view) and low-level sale can have that offense vacated from their record. Other offenses related to possession or sale that were previously misdemeanors or felonies can be reclassified and sealed. People currently incarcerated for such offenses would either be released or have their sentence appropriately reduced pursuant to the new statute.

This is crucial because marijuana prohibition enforcement has devastated communities across New York State, primarily those of color and low-income communities. More than 800,000 people have been arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York State over the past 20 years, with over 700,000 arrests by the NYPD alone. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people must contend with criminal records that yield significant collateral consequences for them—and their families, including limited access to housing, employment, and education opportunities.

Legalizing and regulating marijuana will also provide an opportunity, due to the revenue it will generate, for the communities that have been most devastated to start to repair the harms of the drug war. The potential tax revenue for New York from a legal marijuana market is considerable: it is estimated that New Yorkers spend an estimated $3 billion per year on marijuana in the illicit market. An official study by the NYC Comptroller in 2013 estimated potential tax revenue for a legal marijuana market in NYC alone would be more than $400 million, and acknowledged that the actual revenue could be much higher.

Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, this substantial tax revenue from the legal marijuana market will be used to establish a Community Grants Reinvestment Fund to provide job training, promote adult education, support youth development programming, establish or expand community centers, bolster re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated, and otherwise support community-focused programming in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war. Additional funding from the regulated marijuana market will be directed to assisting the state department of education to keep public schools open and provide a quality education to New York’s children. Another block of funding will be dedicated to public health initiatives, including drug treatment programs to help combat the opioid crisis, science-based public education, and research on public health impacts of marijuana legalization.

“Marijuana legalization is already working in states across the country, and New York should not be left behind. We have the potential to reduce incarceration, raise revenue, and spur job growth. Failed marijuana policies have hurt communities for decades, and we are pleased to see that Governor Cuomo is advancing a study on marijuana legalization that will move us toward more sensible drug policies,” said Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director, VOCAL-NY.

“We welcome Governor Cuomo’s proposal to study marijuana regulation and taxation, and urge the Department of Health to conduct and release their report swiftly. In the meantime, New York should follow our neighbor Vermont by immediately legalizing personal cultivation and possession of marijuana,” said Doug Greene, of Empire State NORML.

“We look forward to the study proposed by the Governor and urge New York policy makers to get on board with legalizing marijuana for adult use, which is supported by a majority of New Yorkers. There is ample evidence that ending marijuana prohibition is a smart way for Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature to uphold the rights of all New Yorkers and support economic growth. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will repair and reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Additional detailed information on the implications of marijuana legalization for criminal justice, public health, and New York’s economy is available at the Start SMART (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade) campaign website:
•    The Costs of Marijuana Prohibition Enforcement: The Criminal Justice System
•    Marijuana Legalization in New York: Promising Economic Prospects
•    Ending Marijuana Prohibition: Impact of Legalization on Border States and Implications for New York
•    Why Legalizing Marijuana is the SMART Choice: The Benefits of Ending Marijuana Prohibition
•    Debunking the “Gateway” Myth

new york marijuana cannabis

New York Holds Historic Public Hearing On Cannabis Legalization

On January 11, 2018, the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Health, and Alcohol and Drug Abuse held a public hearing to discuss the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA, S.3040B/A.3506B), a bill that would legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. This bill will effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York State and would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

The hearing comes amid a wave of marijuana policy reform nationally. Increasingly, jurisdictions and legislators across the country are realizing that marijuana prohibition has been ineffective, unjust, and disproportionately enforced and are working to implement regulatory systems that are fair and effective. Eight states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana for adult use and legalization bills are pending in New Jersey, where the governor-elect has pledged to legalize marijuana in his first 100 days in office; New Hampshire, whose House voted to legalize marijuana this Tuesday; and Vermont, whose Senate approved a legalization bill on Wednesday, paving the way to become the first state to legalize through the legislative process (prior states were via ballot initiative). Massachusetts and Canada are in the process of implementing legalization and expect their legal markets to come online this summer.

At the federal level, last week U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, which previously instructed the Department of Justice to allow states to implement their own marijuana laws with limited federal interference, setting up a showdown with states that have legal marijuana markets and signaling an attempted double down on the draconian war on drugs.

Momentum for marijuana reform is building steadily in New York. A poll of New York voters released in late 2017 showed that 62% of New Yorkers support making marijuana use legal in New York for adults over 21, and more than 60% prefer using the revenue from a legal marijuana market to address New York’s budget deficit over other options for closing the looming budget gap.

“After decades of arresting marijuana users, the drug war has failed to prevent marijuana use or prevent minors from accessing marijuana. Existing marijuana laws have created a violent, illegal drug market that consumes $675 million of New York’s dollars in criminal justice resources each year. Drug laws have also created a permanent underclass with people unable to find jobs after a conviction. One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist.” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the Assembly sponsor of the MRTA.

“Marijuana prohibition is a failed and outdated policy that has done tremendous damage to too many of our communities. Allowing adult personal use, with appropriate regulation and taxation, will end the heavily racialized enforcement that disproportionately impacts African American and Latino New Yorkers, locking them out of jobs, housing, and education, and feeding the prison pipeline. It’s time for smart, responsible, 21st century policy that reflects the best science and the real needs of New Yorkers,” said Senator Liz Krueger, the Senate sponsor of the MRTA.

The hearing featured testimony calling for an end to marijuana prohibition in New York from a broad spectrum of advocates, including representatives from civil rights, criminal justice reform, medical researchers and doctors, regulators from states with legal marijuana, medical marijuana advocates, policing experts, immigration rights advocates, former law enforcement, and drug policy reform.

Advocates highlighted the highly destructive impact of the ongoing marijuana arrest crusade and the extreme racial disparities: New York State has arrested 800,000 for possession of small amounts of marijuana over the last 20 years, with over 700,000 arrests by the NYPD alone. Marijuana possession arrests still topped 23,000 in 2016 and the collateral consequences stemming from marijuana possession arrests remain. Although drug use occurs at similar rates across racial and ethnic groups, Black and Latino individuals are arrested for possessing marijuana at vastly disproportionate rates. In 2016, more than 85% of all those arrested for marijuana possession were Black and Latino; nearly 70% of those arrested were under 30 years old; and over a third were under 21 years old.

Testimony at the hearing also underscored marijuana legalization through the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act as a criminal justice reform issue, as the MRTA will eliminate one of the top misdemeanor arrests from the state’s penal law; will enable those with previous convictions for marijuana-related offenses to have those offenses either sealed, vacated, or otherwise reclassified, thereby increasing opportunity for thousands of New Yorkers; and remove a positive marijuana test as justification for violating a person’s parole or probation. It will also address the devastating impacts of marijuana prohibition in the fields of immigration and family law, and protect against discrimination in housing and employment based on a prior marijuana arrest or off-the-clock marijuana use.

“Instead of criminalizing people for marijuana possession and leaving them with criminal records that land them in deportation, the money saved must be invested into communities of color who have borne the brunt of this form of hyper-criminalization to create economic justice to restore the harms of this failed policy,” said Anthony Posada, Community Justice Unit of the Legal Aid Society.

Doctors and medical researchers present testified that access to a legal marijuana market, both medical marijuana and adult use, has been associated with significantly lower deaths from opioid overdose than in states without legal marijuana deaths—data from the researchers’ study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association show a 25 percent drop in deadly overdoses, resulting in 1,700 fewer deaths in 2010 alone—pointing to marijuana as a potential tool for people struggling to end opioid use. Given marijuana’s pain-relieving benefits, it presents a promising solution to reducing the risks for misuse, dependence, overdose associated with opioid use. Marijuana alone will not be the answer to New York’s problem with opioid misuse and overdose deaths, but available evidence indicates that it should be used with other harm reduction strategies as part of a necessarily diverse and innovative approach to this combatting this crisis.

“The available evidence suggests that medical marijuana laws are associated with decreases in prescriptions for pain medications and decreases in opioid overdose fatalities,” said Julia H. Arnsten, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and Chief Division of Internal Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine [speaking on her own behalf]. “While decriminalization and regulation policies are relatively new and studies are preliminary, the available evidence suggests that decriminalization and regulation of marijuana can further expand access to marijuana for medical patients and decrease use of opioid pain relievers.”

Witnesses with experience regulating marijuana markets in other states and drug policy reform advocates testified about outcomes in the eight states and the District of Columbia have now ended marijuana prohibition. Revenue from the regulated marijuana market is giving those states an opportunity to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, support education, and invest in communities. Data on marijuana use and public safety from states with legal markets show that marijuana legalization has had no discernible negative impact in those areas. And, most importantly, residents of those states no longer face the threat of criminalization because of their personal use.

“Given the data and evidence to date, the legalization of cannabis has been successful in jurisdictions across the country so far. Youth use and access has decreased in Colorado since 2012. In Washington D.C., there have been significant decreases in arrests for marijuana–from 4,000 arrests prior to only 12 following legalization,” said Dr. Malik Burnett, Resident Physician in the Johns Hopkins General Preventive Medicine Program [speaking on his own behalf].

Testimony also covered how the MRTA encourages diversity and builds inclusivity in New York’s marijuana industry by only explicitly barring people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) from receiving licenses. To increase gender diversity in ownership within the marijuana industry, the MRTA requires entities that receive a license to outline specific actions they will take to produce a workforce that resembles the community in which the license is used, in line with New York’s Minority and Women-Owned Businesses initiative.

“With marijuana legalization we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be honest and intentional in addressing the past harms conducted by our respective states in the name of the war on drugs,” said Shaleen Title, Commissioner with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission [speaking on her own behalf] and founding board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. “The worst thing we could do right now would be to regress to a time when prohibition and regressive policies like the Rockefeller Drug Laws took root. I hope New York will join Massachusetts instead in creating the future that most Americans want – an equitable, safely regulated industry with new jobs and tax revenue.”

Other advocates touched on how marijuana prohibition impacts noncitizen immigrants. Because our country’s harsh immigration laws mandate severe punishment for a wide range of drug offenses, New York’s marijuana policies help fuel the mass deportation agenda. The past year saw a 900% increase in courthouse arrests of immigrants by ICE agents in New York, in many cases when someone who is a noncitizen was appearing for a minor offense, including low-level marijuana possession.

“It is time that New York State joins the cadre of progressive states that are acting smart on marijuana regulation. New York City was for many years the marijuana arrest capital of the world and the devastation that wreaked on people of color and marginalized communities cannot be overstated. We need to pivot and address the pressing needs of regulation while simultaneously eliminating the criminal consequences of marijuana possession and restoring the previous harms that prohibitionist modalities created. In short, we need New York State to help lead a marijuana revolution, because it’s just, it’s rational, and it’s time,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“We at National Action Network understand that marijuana legalization will not be a panacea, but we do believe that marijuana legalization is a necessary step in our fight for a criminal justice system which is free of racial bias,” said Brandon Hicks of National Action Network.

“In the last five years, people of color made up 77 percent of marijuana possession arrests in Erie County, though they make up just 18 percent of the population,” said Andrea Ó Súilleabháin of the Partnership for the Public Good. “We know that young people of color use marijuana at slightly lower rates than white people, so this disparity cannot be explained by use. This is one local result of the war on drugs, which has tended to target low-level offenses in non-white, low-income communities. This unequal enforcement of marijuana prohibition comes at a high cost for communities of color.”

“Marijuana legalization is a smart choice for New Yorkers because criminalizing marijuana drives broken windows policing; targets near-exclusively the poor and people of color; leads to unnecessary interactions between citizens and police officers; creates the traumatizing experience of arrest and prosecution, and in some cases deportation; and costs taxpayers an absolute fortune. As long as marijuana is criminalized, we cannot say that New York is a progressive state,” said Scott Hechinger, Senior Staff Attorney and Director of Policy, Brooklyn Defender Services.

“Prohibition has played a significant role in devastating low-income communities of color through racially biased enforcement and has often come with steep collateral consequences. We believe it’s time for a new approach and that approach shouldn’t involve criminalizing New York’s most vulnerable populations,” said Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY.

“The vast majority of adults are unharmed by the responsible use of cannabis. The health risks of cannabis misuse are significantly less than those of alcohol and tobacco. And evidence does not support a causal ‘gateway’ relationship between the use of cannabis and the later use of more harmful drugs,” said Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist specializing in psychopharmacology with a private practice in New York City. “Legalization and regulation benefits public health by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of cannabis. I encourage the state of New York to join the growing number of states that are embracing the future, to legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of cannabis for adult use.”

“New York’s marijuana arrest crusade has resulted in significant harms for those who are most vulnerable and has been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color, funneling tens of thousands of New Yorkers into the maze of the criminal justice system every year and putting people at risk of deportation, losing custody of their children, and barring them from employment and housing for nothing more than possessing small amounts of marijuana,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “As New York finally sheds its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must repair the harms of prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to legalize and regulate marijuana in New York.”

Gov. Cuomo and many New York State Senators and Assemblymembers as well as elected officials across the state have publicly vowed to fight the Trump administration to protect New Yorkers’ rights when it comes to immigration, women’s rights, and civil liberties. We need those who claim to be allies of the most vulnerable New Yorkers to pass legislation to tax and regulate marijuana, so we can end the marijuana arrest crusade and focus on building up our state instead of destroying lives.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

cannabis plant

Another Poll Shows Record Level Support For Cannabis Legalization

When it comes to the effort to end cannabis prohibition in professional sports, public views about cannabis are very important. After all, it’s the fans that buy the tickets to games, purchase league merchandise, and watch league broadcasts that generate profits for pro sports leagues.

In theory, if the fans support a change in professional sports leagues, the leagues should listen. You will be hardpressed to find something that sports fans support more than ending cannabis prohibition. The results of another poll were released this week which found a record level of support for cannabis legalization in America. Below is more information about it via a press release from our friends at NORML:

Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the adult use of marijuana should be legal, according to polling data compiled by the Pew Research Center. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by the firm, which has polled Americans’ views regarding legalization since 1969.

Support is strongest among African Americans (71 percent), Democrats (69 percent), and Independents (65 percent). Support was weakest among Republicans (43 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (38 percent). However, among self-identified Republicans under 40 years of age, 62 percent favor legalization.

Pew’s results are similar to those of other recent national polls. For instance, an October Gallup poll found that 64 percent of the public support making adult cannabis use legal. A Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday reports that 58 percent of voters nationwide back adult use legalization, and 91 percent believe that medical cannabis should be legal. That poll also reports that 70 percent of voters oppose federal interference in state marijuana policies.

new york state assembly marijuana cannabis

New York To Hold Public Hearing On Cannabis Legalization

Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson is proud to have been born and raised in New York State. Growing up in Buffalo, New York Robinson saw firsthand the failures of cannabis prohibition. A number of other Uncle Cliffy team members are either from Buffalo or still reside there. That is why we fight so hard to free the plant in New York State.

With news breaking today that Vermont’s Legislature has passed a cannabis legalization measure, and New Jersey likely to follow suit this year, the Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that reform victories in the Northeastern part of the United States will help push legalization over the top in New York State. Maine and Massachusetts have already legalized cannabis, and Connecticut and other Northeastern states are exploring ways to end cannabis prohibition too.

The momentum for New York State to legalize cannabis is greater now than ever before. Tomorrow a public hearing will be held in New York State to discuss cannabis legalization. If you are in the area the Uncle Cliffy team strongly urges you to attend and to contact your legislators in New York State and urge them to support sensible cannabis policy. Below is more information about tomorrow’s hearing, via a press release from the Drug Policy Alliance:

On January 11, 2018, the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Health, and Alcohol and Drug Abuse will convene a public hearing to discuss the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA, S.3040A/A.3506A), a bill that would legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. This bill will effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York State and would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

Increasingly, jurisdictions and legislators across the country are realizing that marijuana prohibition has been ineffective, unjust, and disproportionately enforced and are working to implement regulatory systems that are fair and effective. A poll of New York voters released in late 2017 showed that 62% of New Yorkers support making marijuana use legal in New York for adults over 21, and more than 60% support taxing and regulating marijuana as a way to address the state’s looming budget deficit.

The Assembly hearing comes on the heels of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding the Cole memo, which previously instructed the Department of Justice to allow states to implement their own marijuana laws with limited federal interference.

Thursday’s Assembly hearing will feature testimony calling for an end to marijuana prohibition in New York from a broad spectrum of advocates, including representatives from civil rights, criminal justice reform, medical researchers and doctors, regulators from states with legal marijuana, medical marijuana advocates, policing experts, immigration rights advocates, former law enforcement, and drug policy reform. Representatives from the Start SMART NY campaign (SMART stands for Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade), a coalition that supports ending marijuana prohibition in New York, will testify at the hearing.

What:               Assembly hearing on the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act
When:              Thursday, January 11, 2018
Where:             250 Broadway, NYC (Assembly Hearing Room 1923, 19th Floor)
Live stream available at: http://nyassembly.gov/av/hearings/
Who:                Broad coalition of advocates, including:

•    Kassandra Frederique – Drug Policy Alliance
•    Juan Cartagena – LatinoJustice
•    National Action Network – Brandon Hicks
•    Scott Hechinger – Brooklyn Defender Services
•    Anthony Posada – Legal Aid Society
•    Prof. Alex Vitale – CUNY Brooklyn College
•    Shaleen Title – Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, Minority Cannabis Business Association
•    Cristina Buccola – Attorney in private practice, experience as counsel for Oregon cannabis businesses Dr. Julia Arnsten – Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, Montefiore Hospital
•    Dr. Julie Holland – Psychiatrist in private practice
•    Dr. Malik Burnett – Resident Physician in the Johns Hopkins General Preventive Medicine Program
•    David Holland – NY Cannabis Bar Association, Empire State NORML
•    Alyssa Aguilera – VOCAL-NY
•    Andrea Ó Súilleabháin – Partnership for the Public Good

The ongoing marijuana arrest crusade has led to more than 800,000 people being arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York State over the past 20 years, with over 700,000 arrests by the NYPD alone. On average, 60 New Yorkers are arrested every day for marijuana possession, making marijuana possession one of the top arrests in the state. Although drug use and drug selling occur at similar rates across racial and ethnic groups, Black and Latino individuals are arrested for possessing marijuana at vastly disproportionate rates. In 2016, more than 85% of all those arrested for marijuana possession were Black and Latino; nearly 70% of those arrested were under 30 years old; and over a third were under 21 years old.

“New York’s marijuana arrest crusade has resulted in significant harms for those who are most vulnerable and has been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color, funneling tens of thousands of New Yorkers into the maze of the criminal justice system every year and putting people at risk of deportation, losing custody of their children, and barring them from employment and housing for nothing more than possessing small amounts of marijuana,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “As New York finally sheds its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must repair the harms of prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to legalize and regulate marijuana in New York.”

jeff sessions marijuana cannabis

Should The Sports Cannabis Movement Be Worried About Jeff Sessions’ Recent Actions?

This week the cannabis community experienced one of the biggest highs and one of the biggest lows in recent months. On Monday California launched adult-use cannabis sales via dozens of dispensaries spread across the state. By all accounts, the rollout of adult-use sales was a success in California, with no issues being reported.

But unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived, as later in the week United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would be rescinding an Obama-era policy that had provided protection for states that had legalized cannabis. The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the cannabis industry and activism movement, with many advocates wondering if it would lead to a crackdown by the federal government.

As it stands right now, the rescinding of the policy (known as the Cole memo) has not resulted in any changes in enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition. That may change in the future, but for now, things are the same as they were before the announcement in regards to federal interference in legal cannabis states. Again, that could change in the future, but the Uncle Cliffy team hopes that proves not to be the case.

Resistance to the announcement was very swift. Members of Congress, state and local lawmakers, and cannabis activists across the country made it very clear that not only do they oppose the decision by Jeff Sessions but also that they would relentlessly fight any federal enforcement in legal states. What does the announcement specifically mean for the sports cannabis movement? Will the sports cannabis movement be harmed by the change in policy? Should professional athletes be worried that they could become targets of federal enforcement?

League officials have regularly cited federal prohibition as justification for continued cannabis prohibition in professional sports. The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) specifically cited Jeff Sessions’ opposition to cannabis as to why they would not support any changes to NBA league policy at this time. That stance was expressed prior to the recent announcement by Jeff Sessions, so it’s likely safe to assume that the NBPA will continue to support the status quo of testing players for cannabis use, and suspending them when they are found to have THC metabolites in their system.

As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out in the past, no player in the history of professional sports has ever been arrested by the federal government for a failed drug test due to cannabis use. It is absurd for anyone to suggest that professional athletes should be tested for cannabis use because of fears related to federal cannabis prohibition. It is extremely illogical to think that because an athlete has THC metabolites in their system that they will become the target of federal cannabis enforcement.

Professional athletes should not be scared by the recent announcement by Jeff Sessions, just as they shouldn’t have been scared by past anti-cannabis comments made by Jeff Sessions and other members of the Trump administration. Cannabis prohibition is just as harmful to society and professional athletes today as it was prior to Jeff Sessions’ announcement, and therefore the effort to free the plant MUST continue.

The sports cannabis movement should not only be unswayed by Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement, it should push forward with more passion now than ever before. Professional athletes need to continue to speak out in support of cannabis reform in sports and society and continue to refuse to stand by as people have their careers and lives ruined due to consuming a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Onward!