The NYPD arrested 9% more people for marijuana possession last year than they did in 2015, despite promises to decriminalize possession of the drug. More troubling is the fact that 46% of those arrested for possession were black, 39% were Hispanic, and only 10% were white.
In his 2013 campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that he would have the NYPD “reduce arrests for marijuana violations." In 2014, he announced that anyone possessing less than 25 grams of marijuana would receive a summons instead of being arrested. Marijuana possession arrests have declined significantly since the height of stop-and-frisk policing under the Bloomberg administration in 2011, but in 2016, the number of pot arrests increased for the first time in five years.
"Yes, it's down significantly from the height of stop and frisk, but there's still lots of people that are getting caught up in these marijuana arrests,” said Alyssa Aguilera, executive director of VOCAL-NY. "People from the mayor, to the NYPD, to Governor Cuomo have said these are needless, they're racially biased and they only serve as a gateway to this mass incarceration."
A map of precinct-level NYPD arrest data reveals that the majority of these pot possession arrests are occurring in neighborhoods of color. Harlem, the Bronx, central Brooklyn, and northern Staten Island report large numbers of arrests, while largely white neighborhoods like midtown Manhattan, Williamsburg, and southern Staten Island had very few marijuana arrests last year.
"It is troubling that this map looks nearly identical to those from 2010 at the height of stop-and-frisk,” Aguilera said. "I think if there was a real priority to stop broken windows policing across the city in communities of color, we'd see those marijuana arrests continue to go down."