Twice as Many White New Yorkers Say They Smoke Weed Than People of Color
A new report found that a quarter of all New Yorkers say they use weed, but people of color are still arrested the most for it. So is it any surprise that the self-reported consumption stats are lower for minorities?
Published on September 26, 2019

A new report on New York City’s cannabis consumption habits is putting new pressure on the city’s long-standing legacy of racist drug policing, and could help push the Empire State closer towards adult-use legalization.

The study, “Cannabis Use in New York City,” was commissioned by the New York Department of Health, and used a variety of local and national surveys, as well as hospital records, up through 2016 to explore pot consumption in NYC.

On a whole, researchers found that 1.3 million city residents, or 24% of all New Yorkers, said they consume cannabis, with those numbers increasing to 34% for young people aged 18-25. 

Broken down by race, the study found that white New Yorkers consumed cannabis at the same rate as the city average of 24%, while black and latinx residents said they consume less cannabis, with consumption rates of 14% and 12%, respectively. But since the consumption data was self-reported, it should come as no surprise that people who are targeted for cannabis crimes at higher rates are less likely to disclose their usage. 



Images via

For decades, the New York City Police Department has targeted people of color for cannabis crimes at staggering rates compared to white residents. And while NYPD officials claim that those disparities are shrinking under decriminalization, the statistics indicate otherwise. In the most recent pot policing records, NYPD numbers show that 94% of marijuana arrests carried out across the five boroughs this year targeted people of color.

Gallery — Photos of Cops Smoking Weed:

“The Health Department’s study on cannabis use in our city shows what we have long known — that white people use marijuana at significantly higher rates than do black people and Latinos,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement responding to the cannabis report. “And yet nearly 90% of those arrested for marijuana possession have been black and brown people. This is why the Brooklyn DA’s office no longer prosecutes anyone for simple possession of marijuana. I commend the City for undertaking this study and hope it will be taken into account as we consider how to safely legalize marijuana in a way that fairly addresses the harms of the past.”

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has expressed his support for statewide cannabis legalization, but Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that he intends to delay recreational legalization so he can explore the option of uniting marijuana laws with neighboring states New Jersey and Connecticut.

Follow Zach Harris on Twitter

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.
Share this article with your friends!
By using our site you agree to our use of cookies to deliver a better experience.