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Cuomo Calls for Marijuana Law Reform

New York's Governor wants to change laws that "stigmatize" people of color.

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Gov. Cuomo calls for a change. Photo via

By Ben Feuerherd

01/10/13

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In last night's State of the State address New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made a strong plea to reform the state's marijuana laws. He proposed standardizing the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and addressed racial disparities and stigma from criminalization in his speech. "It's not fair, it's not right," said the governor. "It must end, and it must end now." For many critics of the state's drug laws, the speech signifies a crucial step in the right direction. "It's a really good sign, and an exciting one," Gabriel Sayegh, the New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance, tells The Fix. "Not only did he address decriminalization, he cited the real problems with the law—racial disparities, stigma from criminalization...We haven't heard those factors from Albany before." Crime statistics show that 600,000 New York residents have been arrested for marijuana possession in the last 15 years, making it NYC's leading cause of arrest. Black and latino men make up a staggering 85% of these arrests, even though statistics show that young white males use marijuana at higher rates. In his final remark on the subject, Cuomo addressed the lasting effect a marijuana possession charge on young black and hispanic men. "There must be parity," he said. "Decriminalize...with 15 grams or less, so there is fairness and parity in the system and we stop stigmatizing these young people, making it harder to find a job. Making it harder to get into school. Making it harder to turn their lives around at a very young age."  

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