Black New Yorkers Are Still Overwhelmingly Targeted For Marijuana Arrests Despite Decriminalization Efforts

Lighting up while Black

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| March 04 2019,

10:46 pm

People of color in New York are still over-policed for using marijuana despite decriminalization initiatives.

The New York Daily News reports arrest rates among Black and Latinx residents have risen by 2 percent since New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio initiated decriminalization measures last fall. Arrest rates among white people dropped by the same amount.

De Blasio openly supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to The Crime Report. Additionally, Governor Andrew Cuomo says marijuana legalization is one of his priorities for his first 100 days in office in 2019.

Overall, possession arrests have dropped from 2,652 at the end of June to 520 at the end of December.

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Even though the New York Police Department (NYPD) has eased up because of de Blasio’s rules, citizens can still get arrested if they are out on probation or parole, violent offenders or have an active warrant. City Councilman Rory Lancman believes those exemptions place a target on Black and brown bodies.

“If the pool of people who are not eligible for the more lenient treatment are more likely to be Black or Hispanic, then the law is being enforced in a racist way,” Lancman said. “Those disparity numbers are going the wrong way.”

He believes the NYPD and state government shouldn’t arrest anyone for possession, regardless of their criminal records, since recreational use could be legalized in the coming months.

NYPD spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica McRorie believes the drop in overall arrests means officers are doing their jobs correctly.

"The NYPD has dramatically reduced arrests and summonses for marijuana-related offenses," McRorie said. "This new policy is an important step toward less intrusive enforcement while we continue to drive down crime to record lows and New York City remains the safest big city."

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