This week, the New York City Council held a joint hearing to discuss the city’s cannabis enforcement policies after activists decried an increasing number of minorities being arrested for pot possession, despite state and city policies decriminalizing low-level possession. Last year, cops arrested around 17,800 people for marijuana possession, 86% of whom were minorities. Though there have been frequent attempts to reduce the number of arrests, NYC still has one of the biggest street-level pot enforcement operations in the U.S.
New York state law classifies the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis as a non-arrestable offense, punishable by a $100 fine. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio and former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that cops would begin to issue summonses for low-level cannabis possession rather than arresting the offender. But regardless of this policy, the state’s decriminalization law, and de Blasio’s constant promises to keep cops in check, the NYPD have made over 75,000 misdemeanor arrests for minor cannabis possession since 2014.
Around 86% of those arrested for possession during this time were black and Latino, and maps of precinct-level arrests show that these arrests are primarily occurring in neighborhoods of color, like Harlem…
Around 86% of those arrested for possession during this time were black and Latino, and maps of precinct-level arrests show that these arrests are primarily occurring in neighborhoods of color, like Harlem, the Queens-Nassau border, and central Brooklyn. In response to the City Council’s criticism over this racial disparity in their arrests, NYPD officials testified that they were simply making arrests in neighborhoods where they received the most 911 calls about individuals smoking up in public.