Though marijuana arrests in New York City in 2018 dropped by more than half of 2017’s totals, the racial disparity of those marijuana arrests have never been more glaring. According to statistics from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, 89 percent of those arrested for smoking marijuana were either black or Hispanic while whites comprised only 7 percent of the arrests.
The de Blasio administration addressed the figures in a statement, admitting more need to be done to address criminal justice reform.
“This administration has taken a dead aim at disparity by dramatically reducing marijuana arrests, and developing a plan for legalization that aims to right historic wrongs,” said mayoral spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie. “But it’s naïve to think that an issue as old and complex as this can be unraveled and solved by the snap of anyone’s fingers.”
“It’ll be a challenge that this administration, the next administration and those who follow will have to constantly focus on—and we will continue to do so,” she added.
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According to the New York Daily News, total marijuana arrests for 2018 sat at 7,348 as of Nov. 23. This represented a dramatic decrease from the previous year, as there were 17,121 marijuana arrests in 2017.
Last year, de Blasio announced plans to overhaul the NYPD’s procedures regarding marijuana arrests. In most cases, those caught with marijuana receive a ticket that carries a maximum fine of $100. However, those with past convictions or arrests will still be arrested by the NYPD. As the New York Times wrote when the plan was announced, “because it exempts from the no-arrest policy certain people with criminal records, many of them black, it is unlikely on its own to shift the focus of marijuana enforcement away from the nonwhite New Yorkers who have for decades been the targets of arrests.”
The numbers released this week support that hypothesis and drawn blowback from City Councilman Rory Lancman, a longtime critic of the de Blasio administration’s lack of criminal justice reform.
“People of color are over-policed and disproportionately brought into the criminal justice system for low-level offenses,” Rory Lancman said Monday, according to the New York Daily News.
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Lancman asserted that the city must do more to protect minorities. While prior arrests or convictions exclude citizens from receiving a summons for marijuana possessions, other exceptions include smoking while smoking or seated in the driver’s side of the car. In addition, if a person cannot recall their ID or address, police may pursue an arrest.
“We’ve created a world where a stunning number of people of color have some criminal justice involvement,” Lancman told the New York Daily News. “The pool of people who are going to get arrested are more heavily black and Latino to begin with.
“We are policing marijuana use in communities of color more aggressively than we are in white communities,” he added. “That has not changed.”