Hawkins Calls for Legalization of Marijuana

Hawkins Calls for Legalization of Marijuana

New York City -- Speaking today at the Cannabis Parade in Union Square Park in NYC, Howie Hawkins said that the Green Party supports an end to the war on drugs, starting with the legalization of marijuana.

“The Green Party calls for the immediate legalization of the growth, sale and possession of cannabis and hemp under NY State law, and for legal opposition to Federal prosecutions for the same. Prohibition and the resulting 'drug war' have unjustly incarcerated countless individuals and scarred communities, often along racial and class lines, while draining resources from society. In addition to criminalizing personal drug use, cannabis prohibition deprives society of the industrial benefits of hemp at a time when we must make use of every ecologically responsible resource to provide materials and energy in the face of looming environmental crises,” said Hawkins, who is seeking the Green Party nomination for Governor. Hawkins finished 3 in the 2010 Gubernatorial election.

Hawkins said the tepid changes to marijuana laws advanced by Governor Cuomo, including for medical marijuana, were grossly inadequate.

The War of Drugs has been a failure. It hasn't reduced substance abuse, but rather has created a culture of violence fueled by profits from the drug trade, similar to the crime wave that accompanied the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s.

Despite decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana four decades ago, New York State leads the country in marijuana arrests. New York has led the way in making the United States the world leader in the number of inmates. New York spends more state dollars on prisons than it does on its state university system. It is time to focus on rebuilding our communities and rehabilitating individuals.

A 2013 report by the NYCLU documents how NY's drug laws discriminate against people of color. The greatest racial disparities occur in Kings County (Brooklyn) and New York County (Manhattan), where black New Yorkers are more than 9 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana. Enormous racial disparities exist in counties throughout the state, including several of the state’s most populous counties, such as Onondaga (7.75 times more likely), Niagara (7.56 times more likely), Monroe (6.5 times more likely) and Erie (5.66 times more likely).

One in eight black men in their twenties are locked up on any given day. 75% of people in state prison for drug conviction are people of color although blacks and whites see and use drugs at roughly the same rate. In NYS, 94% of those imprisoned for a drug offense are people of color.

Enforcing existing marijuana laws costs taxpayers $10 billion annually, with 734,000 individuals arrested nationwide per year -- far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Marijuana arrests have more than doubled since 1991, while adult use of the drug has remained stable. Marijuana violations constitute the fifth most common criminal offense in the U.S. Almost 90 percent of these arrests are for marijuana possession only.

Former President Jimmy Carter told Congress in 1977, that: "Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."

Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), having been used by nearly 80 million Americans. It is significantly less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning, with more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nonaddicting, nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose. The 1999 federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine found that "Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range tolerated for other medications." The European medical journal, The Lancet, stated that "The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. ... It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat ... than alcohol or tobacco.”

Government studies conclude that marijuana decriminalization has not increased marijuana use. In addition, stricter enforcement of laws against marijuana use has no impact on the use of marijuana. As with alcohol, driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.

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