new york policy department nypd marijuana
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Under De Blasio NYPD Continues Discriminatory Marijuana Arrest Crusade

new york policy department nypd marijuanaA new report released by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance shows that, despite campaign promises, marijuana possession arrests under Mayor de Blasio are on track to equal – or even surpass – the number of arrests under Mayor Bloomberg. As under the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, these arrests are marked by shockingly high racial disparities. The report, Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s Two New Yorks: the NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Crusade Continues in 2014 draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and shows that despite a change in mayoral administrations and police commissioners, the NYPD continues its practice of making wasteful, racially biased, and costly marijuana arrests.

The report includes extensive analysis of marijuana arrest and income data, showing  that overall, low income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates of marijuana possession arrests than do white communities of every class bracket. Most of those arrested are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Nearly 75% of the people arrested for marijuana possession in 2014 have never been convicted of even a single misdemeanor, and only 11% have a misdemeanor conviction.

“President Obama, Governor Cuomo, former Mayor Ed Koch and candidate Bill de Blasio all strongly criticized the NYPD’s racist marijuana possession arrests,” saidreport author and Queens College professor Harry Levine.  “Yet the most progressive mayor in the modern history of New York is unable to stop them?  Really?”

New York State decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977, finding that arresting people for small amounts of marijuana “needlessly scars thousands of lives while detracting from the prosecution of serious crimes.” Yet over the last twenty years, marijuana possession has become a top law enforcement priority, with nearly 600,000 people having been arrested under this provision in New York City alone, often as the result of an illegal search or as the result of a stop-and-frisk encounter when police demand an individual “empty their pockets,” thus exposing marijuana to public view.

“I was illegally searched by the NYPD and arrested for having a small amount of marijuana in my pocket,” said Iveily Matias, 20, a VOCAL-NY member living in Washington Heights. “It was my first time ever getting arrested and now I have a criminal record that makes it harder to find a job. I wasn’t posing a risk to anyone’s health or safety, so why am I, and so many other young people of color, being criminalized?”

Efforts to end the marijuana arrest crusade in New York continue to build. In a major development earlier this year, Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio calling for an end to biased marijuana possession arrests. Additionally, this spring, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced a plan to stop prosecuting people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The proposal was met with wide support from elected officials, community groups, and advocates; notably, though, Commissioner Bratton brazenly vowed to continue the racially biased arrest practice. And in Albany, where reform proposals have been debated for years, Assemblyman Karim Camara and Senator Daniel Squadron introduced the Fairness and Equity Act – new, comprehensive legislation to end the marijuana arrest crusade and address the persistent, unwarranted racial disparities associated with the practice.

“There is no excuse for the New York City marijuana arrest crusade to be continuing in 2014,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “New Yorkers made it clear that Black lives mattered when they voted for the mayoral candidate that supported ending bias policing practices, including racist marijuana arrests. It is time for that mayoral candidate to become the mayor and order his police commissioner to end these wasteful marijuana arrests now.”

When comparing arrests in the first eight months of both years (January – August), state data show that the NYPD made 396 more marijuana arrests in 2013 than in 2014 (20,080 versus 19,684). Why slightly more in 2013? Because of the low numbers of marijuana arrests in January and February of 2014, the first two months of the new mayoral administration. Were the marijuana arrests down in January and February 2014 because of policies of the new administration? No. The arrests were down because, according to records from the U.S. weather service, New York City received more inches of snow in January and February of 2014 than in any year since 1870 – more snow than in any January and February in 145 years. In effect, it took what insurance companies call “an act of God” to slow down the NYPD’s marijuana possession arrests in 2014. And then only for two months. Since then, the numbers of the NYPD’s lowest‐ level marijuana arrests have been up, and are on track to equal or pass all arrests in 2013.

“When it comes to marijuana possession arrests, the de Blasio-Bratton record is an awful tale of two New Yorks,” said gabriel sayegh, Managing Director for Policy & Campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Mayor de Blasio promised to end these arrests, so why do they continue today? The City Council should act to hold the Mayor and Commissioner accountable, and Albany needs to pass the Fairness and Equity Act.  We cannot allow systemic racial disparities to persist. Every New Yorker should receive fair, equal treatment under the law, regardless of their race, their class or where they live.”

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation

  • Jason

    This is what I have been saying since wowfad had a melt down on me months ago. I get so sick of hearing politicians saying one thing and then doing the exact opposite. I get tired of everyone defending a person that says what we want to hear at the time and then we find out he was a scumbag screwing us all along.

    These civic enforcers, if they truly believe in cannabis reform, can simply choose to stop processing these “crimes” except in the most extreme need. I just can’t believe that cops, politicians, employers, lawyers, judges, all those we elect and hire, cannot determine if a cannabis related crime is worth the cost and damage that enforcing the failing laws would cause. Hell, even a jury has the right, the RIGHT, of jury nullification. (Jury nullification occurs when a jury substitutes its own interpretation of the law and/or disregards the law entirely in reaching a verdict.) The era of “just following orders”, when the orders do more harm than good, has got to stop. I am not advocating total chaos but just implementation of personal common sense at the most basic level.

    • Denny

      When it comes to politics, common sense and logic are in very short supply.

  • Cyndysub

    They love the low hanging fruit and the easy money.

    • Sarijuana

      It seems like that, but it is costing them more to arrest and prosecute than to collect in fines. Idiocy reigns.

      • Cyndysub

        The easy money is in the property that they “Steal”

        • David

          Cash too.

  • stellarvoyager

    Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. (We won’t get fooled again!).

  • stellarvoyager

    I’ve been saying it all along: they should have elected Anthony Weiner.

    • Denny

      You’ve gotta be joking.

      • stellarvoyager

        Could he be any worse than the current occupant? So he texted a few dic pics. I could care less about that. I’m much more concerned with the kinds of policies he would implement, and whether he would competently run the city, both of which I believe would be far better than what we have under DeBlasio.

  • Sarijuana

    I would love to see a breakdown of the arrests in each individual borough to see where it was most prevalent. If it was decriminalized, on what grounds are arrests being made? Just curious.

    • Viewer

      as the result of an illegal search or as the result of a stop-and-frisk encounter when police demand an individual “empty their pockets,” thus exposing marijuana to public view.

    • HCV

      Concealed personal possession is decrim. Once it is removed from concealment by the individual it becomes public view ( the catchall), which is a misdemeanor. The Brooklyn D A stated he will not prosecute small amounts obtained by this tactic, but, big but, you still get to go for the ride, get processed then the ADA does a 423 release and you walk. But about 24 hrs. later. In my day we could not be bothered with this bullshit, it was not worth the time, and the fact of making a below quality arrest. What gets me is that Bratton knows this. Even in Boston he knew this.
      We just didn’t do it.

    • Sarijuana

      Thanks you guys, for clearing that up for me.

  • painkills2

    De Blasio said he was “for” something, but he hasn’t “done” anything about it, so everything stays the same…
    Talk is cheap.

    • Denny

      Unfortunately, that’s the ultimate downfall and eventual definition of every politician.
      This is further ammo for demanding term limits for all of them.

  • End of the Rope

    Much in the way soldiers blindly follow their superiors, New Yorks finest are being put to same test. The only problem here is that the public is being treated like the enemy. The mayor and the police cheif are endangering every single officer and citizen on the street by continuing to violate the rights of its citizens. Surely the fallout has been considered and guess what, people don’t matter in their eyes. The stage is being set for a confrontation in a court of law where a death of a citizen or a police officer or both is going to rest on the local governments shoulders. What a pathetic pack of political cowards. I’ve got kids with more heart AND more sense. Elections are wonderful tools for removing this kind of cancer.

    • Denny

      There’s a drastic difference between what happens on the battlefield versus someone being stopped on a public street.
      From my experience, there are always going to be rogue elements operating in large organizations regardless of the agency or business.
      When the leadership becomes aware of this issue it’s their responsibility to initiate immediate corrective action.
      If they fail to step up, then it is, as you said, time for the taxpayers/voters to take action at the ballot box.
      However, all too often it becomes a games of “my guy/gal is OK, yours is the problem.”
      That’s how politicians manage to stay in office for a career rather than a term or two and then return to the real world they helped to create.