New York City: Minorities Still Arrested Disproportionately for Marijuana Violations

NEW YORK, NY — Eighty-seven percent of low level marijuana arrestees in New York City are either African Americans or Latinos, according to an analysis compiled by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and published this week by the Drug Policy Alliance.

Researchers reported that New York City police officers made more than 60,000 arrests for minor marijuana violations during the first three years of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration (2014-2016) – even though he had previously called the practice “unjust and wrong.”

Of those arrested during this period, 49 percent were black, 38 percent were Latino, nine percent were white, and four percent were classified as either Asian or ‘other.’

Similar racial disparities among low level marijuana arrests existed under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.

Authors concluded, “In 2016, and for the last 30 years, the NYPD has had two very different patterns or systems of enforcement by race and ethnicity for the criminal offense of possessing small amounts of marijuana – separate, unequal, and unjust.”

Recent reviews of marijuana possession arrest data from New JerseyMaryland, and Virginia have identified similar trends. A 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study found that nationwide blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though both ethnicities consume the substance at approximately similar rates.

Although New York state law classifies minor marijuana possession offenses as a non-criminal offense, separate penal law (NY State Penal Law 221.10) defines marijuana possession in a manner that is ‘open to public view’ as an arrestable offense.

Full text of the report, “Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York,” is available online.

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