94% of NYC Marijuana Arrests This Year Have Targeted People of Color
Despite decriminalizing minor pot offenses, New York police officers are still arresting hundreds of black and Latinx residents for possession and minor sales.
Published on August 22, 2019

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Racist disparities in New York City pot policing have continued, according to new statistics from the first half of 2019.

Out of 805 fifth-degree cannabis possession arrests tallied by the NYPD’s quarterly arrest statistics, 506 targeted black New Yorkers and 260 affected Latinx residents, Queens Eagle reports. Similarly, out of 616 people arrested for fourth-degree pot sales, 403 were black and 180 Latinx.

“The reason is fundamentally where the police are deployed and what directions they’re given,” Police Reform Organizing Project Director Robert Gangi, who called the racist policing disparity “blatant,” told the Eagle. “They are deployed primarily in low-income communities of color… and they’re told to practice ‘broken windows’ policing.”

NYPD has disproportionately targeted people of color for cannabis offenses over the last several decades, but after decriminalizing small quantities of the drug in 2014, city officials expected policing to come in line with new city laws. But while the number of pot arrests in the Big Apple has indeed plummeted over the past five years, those who continue to feel the brunt of NYPD’s discretionary policing are almost always people of color.

Gallery — Photos of Cops Smoking Weed:

And even in states where recreational or medical cannabis laws are on the books and operational, racist pot policing has continued. In Philadelphia, decriminalization and a robust medical system have cut down cannabis policing significantly. But new data released last week emphasized a significant disparity in possession and consumption tickets, with one primarily black district in West Philly seeing more than 25% of all pot citations.

“[Racial disparities] mark every public policy area,” Gangi said. “Where it’s most harmful, and most egregious in terms of where harm is done to people of color, is in the criminal justice system because it leads to mass incarceration.”

Over the past year, New York legislators have edged towards a full-scale cannabis legalization initiative that may help reduce the NYPD’s racist pot policing. But those efforts are currently stalled, with no timeline currently on the books for recreational cannabis reform in the Empire State.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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