New Yorkers Rally for a Safer Green on St. Patrick's Day

New Yorkers Rally for a Safer Green on St. Patrick's Day

“We’re reminding New York City that there is a safer alternative to pools of vomit in the streets.”

NEW YORK, NY — Marijuana reform advocates in the Big Apple rallied for a safer kind of green at New York’s City Hall on Saturday, using the backdrop of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations to call attention to marijuana law reform. Empire State NORML, the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, organized the demonstration for the third consecutive year.

Activists gathered to listen to speakers on the steps of City Hall, emphasizing that marijuana is a safer form of intoxication than alcohol on a day when much of the city is celebrating by binge drinking.

“While scores of New Yorkers are out getting hammered, we want to remind the Big Apple that there is a safer, greener and cleaner choice for adults: marijuana,” said Doug Greene, Legislative Director of Empire State NORML, who organized the event for the first time in 2010. “We’re reminding New York City that there is a safer alternative to pools of vomit in the streets.”

Despite attempts to shed its rep as the “pot bust capital of the world,” New York city continues to arrest more people for simple marijuana possession than any other city in the world. In 2011, marijuana possession arrests in New York City hit a ten-year high. Although few who are arrested see jail time, these small possession charges have big consequences: a criminal record can put jobs, housing, education and families at risk.

In 2010, 16% of New Yorkers reported that they had engaged in binge drinking (5+ drinks on a single occasion) within the past 30 days.

Another victim of NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” tactics, often used to bust pot smokers in the Big Apple.

“In an era of budget cuts and worsening public health, why is the Bloomberg administration driving New Yorkers to drink while spending at least $75 million a year arresting peaceful, healthy cannabis consumers? New York City made over 50,000 marijuana possession arrests last year, and over 400,000 since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002. We’re here to slay the dragon of racist, expensive and unscientific marijuana policies,” said Greene.

Activists gathered Saturday to listen to speakers, including  Joanne Naughton, a former NYPD narcotics detective who now campaigns for drug law reform as a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

“What I did decades ago wasn’t any good, didn’t do any good. It was a waste of time,” Naughton told WCBS.

Other speakers included NORML founder Keith Stroup and New York City Council Member Letitia “Tish” James (D-Brooklyn), who has called upon the Administration for Children’s Services not to charge parents with abuse or neglect when the only allegation against the parent is marijuana use.