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In New York City, smoking weed is apparently only a crime if you're black or Latinx. In a new report breaking down the New York City Police Department's (NYPD) misdemeanor arrest statistics over the first six months of 2018, the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) found that 93% of the department's minor marijuana possession charges were targeted at minorities.
Out of the 6,604 people that NYPD arrested for carrying weed in the Big Apple between January and the start of July, 6,142 of them were people of color. Despite repeated promises from NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio to address racist policing and reform cannabis arrests in general, the new statistics suggest that marijuana has remained one of NYPD's favorite excuses for persecuting disenfranchised communities.
"Arrests for marijuana remain in the thousands every year and are now the third-most-common NYPD arrest," PROP spokesman Robert Gangi told the New York Daily News. "The racial bias grows more stark, despite research and experience demonstrating that white people use and sell marijuana in proportions and numbers equal to or greater than African-Americans & Latinx."
As NYPD marijuana arrests continue to decline from the peak of the "stop and frisk" era, when blatant racial profiling was the city-sanctioned standard for persecution, the department's racial policing divide has only widened.
On a whole, marijuana possession arrests have been steadily dropping year after year, and during 2018, month after month. According to a PROP report released at the end of March, the NYPD made 4,081 misdemeanor pot stops in the first three months of the year, almost twice as many arrests as the 2,523 made in the second quarter of 2018.
Still, while New Yorkers applaud the expansion of the Empire State's medical marijuana program and wait for lawmakers to potentially make moves on recreational legalization, the vast majority of people that will continue to suffer from prohibition will be the city's most marginalized populations.
"Politicians like gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and NYC Public Advocate Letitia James may call for marijuana legalization," PROP officials wrote in the group's first quarter 2018 report. "But such stances amount to empty posturing because while Albany dithers over the legalization question, NYC's police force applies its biased and abusive 'broken windows' tactics to low-income communities of color for marijuana possession and other low-level infractions."
In May of this year, Mayor De Blasio said that he would direct NYPD to ticket, and not arrest, people found smoking marijuana in public starting this September. In the meantime, though, NYPD will have free reign to continue selectively targeting the city's pot smokers, locking up black and brown New Yorkers for getting stoned while ignoring the thousands of white people doing the exact same thing every day.
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