Marijuana Policy Project
Curved Papers

The Legalization Equation: It's for Everyone

Start SMART-NY protest for marijuana legalization (image via AP)

Yesterday was an emotional day for many New Yorkers as we watched the walls of marijuana prohibition in the Empire State tumble down. 

One by one, Democratic lawmakers, mostly of color, called for an end to the racist War on Drugs. Step one is legalizing cannabis, which the state legislature approved in two historic votes.

For this pot smoker who has been arrested three times and spent time in jail, it was an emotional day as well.

I listened to Assembly members talk about how unjust prohibition has been, especially for people of color. Some said marijuana was legal for white people. The arrest disparity - 90% of arrests of POC - is clear and indisputable.

My 2012 marijuana arrest was the last straw. At 56, it was outrageous being cuffed and stuffed into a paddy wagon for possessing a few joints.

But let's not forget the past. In his comments, Bronx Assembly member Victor Pichardo reminded that Harry J. Anslinger started Reefer Madness in the 1930s that led to prohibition and that President Nixon targeted "the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin" starting in 1968. "criminalizing both heavily." In the '70s, when the drug war war began in earnest, hippies (generally white people) were the focus as were Blacks who used heroin.

Still, it was hard to get arrested for weed in that era, at least in New York, which passed decriminalization in 1977. But by the '90s everything had changed as New York devolved into the "Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World" under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

I was busted twice in New Jersey in 1992 and 1995. For the second one I spent a weekend in jail. In 2012, I was arrested in New York prior to attending a Phish show at Madison Square Garden.

That arrest was the last straw for me. At 56, it was outrageous being cuffed and stuffed into a paddy wagon for possessing a few joints.

So yes, white people get arrested for marijuana too. I can attest to that.

Legalization is for everyone. Certainly, people of color have taken the brunt of the drug war and will likely continue to until all illicit drugs are legal. Equity is key, making sure the cannabis industry is fair and diverse. 

Oh happy day in New York for all my brothers and sisters who fought so hard to reverse this horrible policy. We've come a long way. 


Become a Patron!


Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.