Despite the public’s rising acceptance of legal weed, and the increasing liberalization of cannabis laws, police are still targeting black and Latinx Americans for low-level pot offenses.
New police data from Albany and Schenectady counties — New York state’s Capital Region — highlights that weed arrests for black and Latinx Americans went up over the last few years, while arrests for white residents went down for the same crimes.
“Nothing has changed in terms of what we are hearing on the street,” Alice Green, the executive director at the Center for Law and Justice, told the Times Union. “People are still being stopped and arrested.”
For instance, in 2018, police in New York’s Capital Region charged twice as many black people for low-level weed offenses than they did in 2016, reported the Times Union.
The data shows that weed arrests across all racial demographics began dropping in 2009, five years before the state legalized medical marijuana. From 2011 to 2012, weed arrests for white and black people decreased slightly, while arrests for “Other” ethnicities went up.
Then something changed between 2016 and 2017, when arrests across all races increased. But the trend dramatically reversed from 2017 to 2018 — around the same time New York lawmakers were seriously discussing legalizing recreational weed — with the arrest rate for white people plummeting and arrests for black people soaring.
The data contradicts Albany’s drug policy. Last year, Albany District Attorney David Soares said he would stop prosecuting anyone charged with possessing less than two ounces of weed. Yet since January, Albany police arrested dozens of people for holding less than two ounces, and, not surprisingly, almost all of them were black or Latinx.
“The Albany Police Department routinely analyzes and assesses data to ensure that operations are consistent with contemporary best practices,” said Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins in a press release. “We are currently conducting such an assessment with respect to the latest data regarding marijuana arrests.”
The easy solution, of course, would be for the cops to stop charging people — regardless of ethnicity — for holding less than two ounces of marijuana. Y’know, like the District Attorney ordered.
Things aren’t much better in the Big Apple, either. Last year, a report showed that 9 out of 10 people arrested by the NYPD for low-level weed offenses were black or Latinx.
New York certainly isn’t the only state to see the War on Drugs’ bullshit continue in an age when most Americans favor some form of cannabis legalization. Last month, a study found that weed arrests for black Washingtonians doubled after the state legalized in 2014. Previous studies have shown arrest and citation rate disparities for black and Hispanic people in Colorado after 2014, too.
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