Although New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has partnered with the New York Police Department to begin efforts to decriminalize marijuana last year, a new report states the arrests of Blacks for pot possession has not decreased at the same rate as that of whites.
In general, arrests have decreased from 2,652 at the end of June to 520 by the time December ended. But Black arrests have decreased by 76 percent, compared to white arrests being lowered by 87 percent. That means Black arrests have been decreased by 11 percent less than white arrests. If Hispanics were factored in, they’d see an 83 percent drop in arrest rates.
While the decriminalization plan includes points to ensure the supply of weed is clean, educating youth about the potential health risks of legalization and even hopes to eradicate racial discrimination, exceptions to weed decriminalization that disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic people remain.
City Councilman Rory Lancman, who headed the movement to reform marijuana enforcement, explained cops still arrest those who smoke the substance in public if they’re on probation or parole or if they have violent offenses. They’ll also handcuff them if officers believe them to be a threat to public safety. Lighting up a blunt or joint without an ID or while there’s warrant out for your arrest means it’s off to the slammer.
“If the pool of people who are not eligible for the more lenient treatment are more likely to be black or Hispanic, then the law is being enforced in a racist way,” Lancman said. “Those disparity numbers are going the wrong way.”
The councilman proposed halting enforcement altogether since legalization is set to take place by the end of May.
“The city needs to stop arresting and summoning people for recreational marijuana use,” Lancman said, adding that around 5,000 people will be put through the criminal justice system in the next three months. “The city needs to ask itself why it’s doing that.”
However, a spokeswoman for the NYPD, Sgt. Jessica McRorie, said arrests have decreased by 50 percent from 2017 to 2018. McRorie said they’ve “dramatically reduced arrests and summonses for marijuana-related offenses.”
Councilman Donovan Richards of Queens said he wants to ensure Black and Hispanic people get the first chance and breaking into the legal weed market, as they’ve been outnumbered in the amounts of punishments they’ve faced for possession.
“We want to make sure that true economic justice comes to the black and brown communities,” he said, noting that once legalization comes, records should be expunged. “It’s going to be a billion dollar industry. That money should go to the community, not Wall Street.”