Under Bloomberg, More Than 400,000 People Arrested on Low-Level Marijuana Charges in NYC, At a Cost of More Than $600 Million; Most Are Young Blacks and Latinos, Despite Whites Using Marijuana at Higher Rates
Illegal Searches and Manufactured Misdemeanor Arrests Continue Despite Order by Commissioner Kelly to Halt These Unlawful Police Practices; Marijuana Arrests Are #1 Offense in NYC and Make Up 15% of All Arrests
On Thursday, March 29th at noon, elected officials, community members and New Yorkers for Public Health & Safety will march to Mayor Bloomberg’s house to demand an end to illegal, racially biased and costly marijuana arrests. In 2011, there were 50,684 marijuana possession arrests, the top arrest and second highest in New York City history, despite Police Commissioner Kelly’s directive last year to end such arrests. While Bloomberg proposes cuts to public libraries, fire stations and after-school programs, he’s spending at least $75 million a year for these arrests.
Protesters plan to highlight Mayor Bloomberg’s hypocrisy: last year, the mayor launched a new, $130 million Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) — “the nation’s boldest and most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of black and Latino young men” — but he’s simultaneously wasting $75 million a year on arresting thousands of young Black and Latino men for bogus low-level marijuana possession charges. The mayor, who in 2001 said that he smoked marijuana and “enjoyed it,” now presides over the largest initiative in the country to arrest young men of color on false marijuana possession charges. Young whites use marijuana at higher rates, yet 84 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession are Black and Latino, and most are under 30 years old. A marijuana arrest is no small matter — most people are handcuffed, placed in a police car, taken to a police station, fingerprinted and photographed, held in jail for 24 hours or more, and then arraigned before a judge. The arrest creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be found on the Internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards and banks — the exact kind of criminal records that are recognized by the YMI as “slowing the advancement of black and Latino men.”
New York State decriminalized private possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977, in order to preserve scarce police resources and prevent needless criminalization; marijuana in public view was made misdemeanor offense. But the NYPD has made marijuana possession arrests their number one priority. Research finds that most people arrested for marijuana possession did not have it in public view, but had a small amount in a pocket and were either tricked by the police to reveal it, or were illegally searched. These individuals are then falsely charged for possessing marijuana in public view, and arrested. In the last five years under Bloomberg, the NYPD made more marijuana arrests than in the twenty-four years under Mayors Giuliani, Dinkins and Koch combined. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Albany to address the issue, along with a resolution in NY City Council.
We demand that Mayor Bloomberg direct Ray Kelly and the NYPD to end these illegal, racially biased and costly arrests once and for all.
What: Rally and march to Mayor Bloomberg’s Upper East Side apartment demanding an end to illegal marijuana arrests
When: Thursday, March 29th, 2012 at 12pm
Where: Meet at 77th & 5th Ave at 12pm and march to Mayor Bloomberg’s house (79th & 5th Ave)
Who: City Council Members, New Yorker’s for Health & Safety (VOCAL-NY, Drug Policy Alliance the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives) and community members including those illegally arrested for marijuana possession
Press Release From The Drug Policy Alliance