New York State Committee to Legalize Marijuana
-Dennis Levy
(New York) A new Quinnipiac University poll released early Wednesday shows a majority of people favor legalizing marijuana, with younger voters strongly supportive of such a policy. Overall, 51 percent of voters think the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, while just 44 percent oppose legalization. Two-thirds of voters under age 30 think it should be legal, but only 35 percent of those 65 and older agree.

Under the circumstances, there is no reason to not legalize marijuana in New York. Indeed, the facts say most people act like marijuana is legalized. Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Here are more startling facts:

First, marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. Similarly, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose. According to the prestigious European medical journal, The Lancet, "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."

Marijuana, or cannabis, as it is more appropriately called, has been part of humanity's medicine chest for almost as long as history has been recorded. Of all the negative consequences of marijuana criminalization, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal cannabis to the tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use. Medical researchers have found that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of medical conditions. These include pain relief –particularly of neuropathy pain (pain from nerve damage), nausea, glaucoma, and movement disorders.

Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant used by patients suffering from HIV/AIDS and Cancer.
Second, the NYPD arrested and jailed nearly 400,000 people for possessing small amounts of marijuana between 1997 and 2007, a tenfold increase in marijuana arrests over the previous decade, according to a report released by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In 2011, NYPD made upwards of 60,000 arrests for Marijuana Possession and Blacks and Latino comprise 85% of arrests even though White youth were more likely to use marijuana. Governor Cuomo said that the present law is "incongruous" and "disproportionately" effects black and Hispanic youth. The pending bipartisan legislation - Senate Bill 5187 and Assembly Bill 7620 - would equalize minor marijuana possession penalties to a non-criminal, fine-only offense.

According to the Associated Press, Cuomo's proposal differs slightly from these measures because it would retain criminal misdemeanor penalties for cannabis smoking in public. More than 750,000 people were arrested for last year for simple possession! Driven by the fake Drug War, the U.S. prison population is six to ten times as high as most Western European nations. The question that frightens a lot of parents is whether legalization of marijuana will encourage a whole lot more kids to use pot.

Here are the facts 83.9% of high school seniors say it’s “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get pot. Nearly 42% of them in the US report have used marijuana at least once in their lives. Nevertheless, the government estimates 5% of high school seniors are regular pot smokers.Last year, a small group of Marijuana advocates organized the ‘New York State Committee to Legalize Marijuana’. Our mission is to support legislation that ‘Legalizes, Regulates, and Taxes Marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes’ in New York State.

Our committee began organizing on Facebook and quickly attracted hundreds of people to our page who support our mission. Based on that success, we want to do grassroots outreach in New York City Communities by setting up a “Marijuana Table” on street corners to distribute information on Marijuana to the community. The outreach will be extended to Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse next year. Polls show that victory is within our grasp in New York especially since Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s I-502 has made marijuana legal in those two states.

Help us raise awareness for legalization in New York. Let your friends and family knows that you stand for rational reforms to marijuana policy and remind them to get out and vote!

Dennis Levy is a community organizer with over 30 years of organizing experience in the community. He is one of the Founders of ‘New York State Committee To Legalize Marijuana’. For additional information email me at:
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