A new set of statistics from the New York Police Department details persistent racism in cannabis arrests, with over 90% of all pot charges filed in the third quarter of 2019 targeting people of color.
According to concurrent reports from AM NY and Patch, NYPD officers made 291 arrests for criminal and unlawful marijuana possession between July and September of this year. Out of those arrested, 167 were black, 97 were latinx, and only 18 were white.
New York state legislators passed a cannabis decriminalization bill this year, reducing most minor pot infractions to civil violations instead of criminal charges. And while racist policing disparities have unfortunately carried over into that new policy shift, it is clear that decriminalization has led to fewer cannabis arrests. During the same three months of 2018, New York City saw 1,117 marijuana arrests, with more than 1,000 targeting black and brown residents.
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“While this data demonstrates that these arrests are down significantly compared to years ago, black and Latino New Yorkers are still disproportionately targeted by the police for low-level marijuana possession,” Anthony Posada, supervising attorney at the Community Justice Unit at the Legal Aid Society, told AM NY.
In the months since the Empire State’s decriminalization law was signed into action, New York lawmakers and cannabis advocates alike have advanced discussions of a full-scale marijuana legalization bill, but have so far fallen short of the necessary legislative support.
“Decriminalizing was a step in the right direction, but to fully right the wrongs of the War on Drugs, Albany lawmakers cannot let another session pass without taking action,” Posada said. “The human cost is too high.”
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