A major investigation by the New York Times finds continued racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and arrests in every neighborhood in New York City.
Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.
The Times also debunked the NYPD explanation for the disparities, which the police attribute to more 311 and 911 complaints in certain neighborhoods.
“New York’s marijuana arrest crusade is causing significant harms to the City’s most vulnerable communities and has long been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “NYPD is funneling tens of thousands of New Yorkers into the maze of the criminal justice system every year and putting people at risk of deportation, losing custody of their children, and barring them from employment and housing – all for nothing more than a small amount of marijuana.”
“Given New York’s embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade,” Frederique continued.
DPA has consistently documented the NYPD’s racist marijuana enforcement over the past decade, including the release of multiple reports.
DPA is currently leading a campaign, Start Smart New York, to pass marijuana legalization in New York, with a focus on racial, social and economic justice.
Last week, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger were joined by organizations and groups dedicated to criminal justice reform, civil rights, and public health as they stood in support of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), a bill that would legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The bill would effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York State and would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
The legislation also ensures tax revenue generated from marijuana legalization is put to use repairing communities devastated by harsh enforcement of prohibition by directing revenue to fund job training, adult education, youth development programming, establish or expand community centers, bolster re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated, and otherwise support community-focused programming in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war, in addition to education, public health, and drug treatment.