Mayor Bill de Blasio Says Stop to The Cops

Stop Arresting Citizens for Public Cannabis Consumption

Current NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio seems to agree with the three-term, 99th Mayor of New York City Fiorello Henry La Guardia’s thoughts on cannabis prohibition. Those thoughts were that it was wrong. Mayor Bill de Blasio made a statement recently where he acknowledged the inevitable legalization of cannabis in New York. 

He referenced helping to establish the necessary regulatory framework to usher in the new era of cannabis legalization that’s taking place. He also acknowledged that lawmakers need to ready themselves for this. Under Mayor de Blasio, NYC has been promised that it will see a reduction in the arrest rates for marijuana possession under subsection one (less than 25 grams).

“With marijuana legalization likely to occur in our state in the near future, it is critical our city plans for the public safety, health, and financial consequences involved. While I still have real concerns we must work through, it isn’t difficult to see where this is headed, and any responsible policymaker must prepare for that eventuality. My focus now will be helping to craft the critical regulatory framework that must come before legalization is realized.”-Mayor Bill de Blasio

Cannabis Has 99 Problems, but the 99th Mayor of NYC Wasn’t One of Them

The 99th Mayor of New York City Henry La Guardia shared a similar view about marijuana prohibition. In 1937, the commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Jacob Anslinger, was mainly responsible for sparking marijuana prohibition. In 1939, Henry La Guardia requested that the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) conduct a report on marijuana. This report was called “The La Guardia Committee Report: The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York.”

Conducted by respected members of the medical community at the NYAM, The La Guardia Committee Report looked at the truths behind Harry Anslinger’s prohibition of marijuana. The report published by the New York Academy of Medicine stated that “the sociological, psychological, and medical ills commonly attributed to marihuana have been found to be exaggerated.”

However, the NYAM didn’t know what they were talking about. Anslinger was sure of this. So sure, in fact, it’s rumored that he destroyed every copy of The La Guardia Committee Report he could get his hands on. Regardless of if this was true or not marijuana prohibition continued against the will of the people. Check out a video of Mayor Henry La Guardia’s stance on marijuana prohibition here.

History of Cannabis Legality in the U.S

Marijuana prohibition started to gain support in the early 1900’s but wasn’t made official until October of 1937. Since then it’s been a struggle for cannabis supporters and advocates to say the least. Marijuana prohibition was founded on a past of racism and sexism. It targeted minorities and any women who would have relations with them. The founding father of marijuana prohibition was quoted saying things like: 

  • Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men.”
  • “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
  • “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
  • “You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother.”
  • “The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

Marijuana prohibition was underway in 1937. By 1942 cannabis was removed from the U.S Pharmacopeia. That same year the U.S government encouraged farmers to grow cannabis, in particular hemp, to help win the war (WWII) with a short film called “Hemp for Victory.” A film the U.S government denied making until they could no longer hide the truth. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the pivotal moments throughout the history of cannabis prohibition.

  • 1951 - In the U.S. the geniuses in Congress decided that mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug crimes were the thing to do.
  • 1956 - Congress decided to include marijuana in the Narcotics Control Act
  • 1961 - UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs created the following rule: "The use of cannabis for other than medical and scientific purposes must be discontinued as soon as possible but, in any case, within twenty-five years..." Way to go boys! That was sure worth all the money wasted.
  • 1968- President Johnson made what some would call a Richard or Dick move and created the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
  • 1970 - Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana to be a drug with "No Accepted Medical Use."
  • 1971- President Nixon added fuel to the fire by declaring a “war on drugs” that should have been called “The Attempted Eradication of Cannabis.”
  • 1972- The Shafer Commission Report suggested that Congress amend federal law so that the possession and use of marijuana would no longer carry criminal charges.
  • 1986 – Under President Regan, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act increased penalties for marijuana dealing and possession.
  • 1996 - California legalizes medical marijuana.

Fast forward to 2018 and there are now 29 states plus Washington D.C. that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in some form.  9 states have also legalized the adult use and possession of cannabis for those over the age of 21 for recreational purposes. 

In May of 218, CNN released a report stating that "New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has told top brass at the city's police department to stop arresting people who are caught smoking marijuana in public, according to a City Hall aide." Starting August 1st of 2018, those caught smoking cannabis in public in NYC will no longer face arrest but rather a fine and summons to appear in court.  

Ring the Alarm the Old Ways Aren’t Working

Even though Harry Anslinger isn’t alive today, the war he started is. Countless numbers of minorities are still arrested and incarcerated for simple possession of cannabis. In New York the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance released a statement saying “The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system. The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals."Was there ever a problem? You bet your bud there was.

Current arrest rates for minorities are alarming. According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 18,136 people were arrested by the New York Police Department in 2016 for possession of marijuana. State data also shows the alarming fact that nearly 96% of those arrests, an estimated 17,406 of them were for public marijuana consumption under 25 grams. Of those arrests, 10% of them were Caucasian, 39% were Hispanic, and 46% of those arrested for marijuana were African American. 

2017 hasn’t shown any progress in the area of racial disparity concerning arrest rates for public consumption of marijuana. The New York Department of Criminal Justice shows that in 2017 9% of arrests for public marijuana consumption where Caucasian, while 38% were Hispanic, and 48% were African American. 

Hopefully, 2018 will bring a much-needed change for citizens of color in the Big Apple. The LaGuardia Committee reports of 1942 knew that marijuana prohibition was fueled by racism, lies, deception, and that it wouldn’t work. The Shafer Commission on Marijuana and Drugs in 1972 also knew that marijuana prohibition was wrong and would not work.

What if those in power listened to the will of the people instead of listening to the sounds of coins being collected. Imagine the lives that could have been saved, the families that didn’t have to be torn apart, not to mention the good we could be doing for our planet.

With cannabis gaining national acceptance it looks as if the scales of justice are finally starting to tip in favor of the people. The light of Liberty’s Torch should be a reminder of the representation of freedom. Is it simply coincidental that Lady Liberty is also green?