Drug Policy

drug policy

VOCAL-NY believes that people who experience addiction or other drug-related problems should receive care and support, and that no one should ever be arrested or incarcerated for simple possession or use of drugs. Many of our members face ithe “war on drugs,” a concept founded on racism and fueled by billions of dollars that kills people, destroys families and communities, undermines our democracy, and enforces economic inequality.

VOCAL-NY’s drug policy work is carried out by our Users Union, which unites low-income people directly affected by the war on drugs. Our drug policy goals include ensuring universal access to harm reduction services, evidence-based drug treatment, and reducing and eliminating criminal justice involvement for people who use drugs

Interested in fighting with us for smart drug policy or joining the Users Union? Contact Fred Wright at fred@vocal-ny.org.

Our accomplishments include:

  • Expanded access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone by passing a state law in 2014 to allow standing orders, through which harm reduction staff, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers may distribute the medication without a physician being present to write a prescription. The law has led to a huge increase in community naloxone availability.
  • Passed the Compassionate Care Act: VOCAL directed community organizing efforts within the successful campaign to legalize medical marijuana in New York, bringing together affected families and people living with HIV, cancer, epilepsy, and other conditions to advocate. Since winning the campaign in 2014, we have continued to advocate for emergency access for critically ill New Yorkers and for changes to the law to make access more equitable for people of color and low-income individuals.
  • Passed the “911 Good Samaritan” law to prevent fatal overdoses, in coalition with the Drug Policy Alliance and others. The law which encourages New Yorkers to call 911 if they experience or witness an overdose without fear of arrest or criminal prosecution for possessing small quantities of drugs or alcohol (if they are underage).
  • Passed a state law that prohibits drug courts from ordering people to cease the use of methadone or buprenorphine as a condition of diversion from prison.
  • Promoting marijuana decriminalization by helping to introduce the New York State Fairness & Equity Act, which would not only end the racially biased arrests for low-level marijuana possession but also repair the harms already done to communities of color. The bill would create a vacate process to erase the misdemeanor records of more than 600,000 New Yorkers already victimized by broken marijuana laws, as well as establish racial and ethnic statements to highlight and lessen the discriminatory impact of criminal justice legislation.
  • Passed a state law to exclude drug residue in used syringes from criminal drug possession statutes, which protects people who use syringe exchange programs to protect their health and removed a barrier to safe syringe disposal.
  • Helped win passage of the Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP) law, which today provides for the non-prescription sale of more than 4 million sterile syringes per year through thousands of participating pharmacies across New York State.

Main Image: VOCAL-NY member Terrell Jones speaks at a press conference introducing New York State syringe access legislation.


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