New York Airs Tax-Funded PSA About the Racist War on Weed During NBA Finals
The Empire State just released the first taxpayer-funded PSA ever to address the discriminatory effects of weed prohibition, but some media outlets are censoring it.
Published on June 8, 2022

New York just launched a new taxpayer-funded PSA to address the discriminatory consequences of marijuana prohibition as part of its new cannabis education campaign.

The new ad is the latest installment of a series of PSAs created by the NY Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to inform the public about the state's new adult-use law. The “Cannabis Conversations” series explains that although weed is legal, underage pot use and driving under the influence remain strictly prohibited. Additional ads encourage adults to keep their weed away from pets and children and to be mindful about secondhand smoke.

The new installment in the series, which aired during Game 1 of the NBA Finals last week, addresses the racially disproportionate effects of prohibition. “Latino New Yorkers were eight times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white New Yorkers over the past 30 years. Black New Yorkers? 15 times more likely,” the PSA explains. “White, Black or Brown: Data shows we all use cannabis at the same rate.”

“The advertisement released today is the first cannabis-related advertisement in the nation focusing on the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition to appear on broadcast television,” said Cannabis Control Board (CCB) chair Tremaine Wright in a statement. “It highlights the wide disparity in arrest rates for cannabis offenses for Black, Brown, and White New Yorkers during the 30 years prior to cannabis legalization.”

“While we’re also telling folks that they should keep their cannabis stored away, we think it’s also important for them to understand that we, as a state, are also recognizing the harms of previous policies and are taking significant steps to correct them,” OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander told Marijuana Moment. “We think it was important to start with this type of message to take on the issue head-on.”

“There’s so much education that needs to occur,” Alexander continued. “There are assumptions. There’s stigma related to the plant... So we thought the ad was important, as is in line with the rest of the Cannabis Conversation series, providing that base level education to the viewer who’s not as engaged as we are on the developments in the space.”

The stigma against cannabis is interfering with the state's ability to share this important information with the public, though. One major New York news station refused to air the new ad about discrimination and refused to disclose why they did so. And while most social media outlets agreed to run the series, TikTok outright refused to show any of the PSAs, even the ones that warned about keeping weed away from children. 

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, California is also doing its part to address the racist harms of prohibition. In a new report on reparations for Black Americans, a state task force clearly acknowledged that the “American government at all levels, including in California, has historically criminalized African Americans for the purposes of social control, and to maintain an economy based on exploited Black labor.” The report goes on to detail how the Nixon administration deliberately created the War on Drugs to continue criminalizing and disrupting Black communities.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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