MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Although Bill de Blasio pledged in his campaign for mayor to stop racial inequity in arrests for marijuana possession, a new report by Drug Policy Alliance, "Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York,"reveals that racial disparities in arrest are wide and persistent. When he became New York City mayor in 2014, de Blasio specifically targeted these bias arrests against people of color, saying as reported in Marijuana.com,
There have been, in some cases, disastrous consequences for individuals and families. It hurts their chances to get a good job, to get housing. It hurts their chances to qualify for a student loan; it can literally follow them the rest of their lives.
I think the fact that you will see fewer unnecessary arrests will be good for New York City as a whole. It will be good for New Yorkers of color and young people of color -- there is no question about that. We’ll see how the numbers come out over time but there’s no doubt in my mind it will be a very substantial impact. And for a lot of young people it means they will not have this reality holding them back; a summons is not going to affect their future. An arrest, could. And we want to avoid that unnecessary burden.
According to Marijuana.com, "After winning the mayoral seat, de Blasio and former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced in 2014 that anyone found to be in possession of less than 25 grams would be issued a court summons rather than an arrest."
Arrests for marijuana possession fell dramatically during his first two years in office, 2014-2015. However, they began to tick up again in 2016, according to the New York Daily News.
Drug Policy Alliance is highly critical both of the arrests themselves and the chasm of inequality between whites and people of color among those arrested, most of them young. The new report analyzed data and found that among the 60,990 individuals arrested for pot possession between 2014-2016, 86 percent were Black and Latino and only 14 percent were white. New York City is approximately 49 percent white. The report notes, "Most people arrested are young Blacks and Latinos -- even though studies consistently show young whites use marijuana at higher rates."
In a Drug Policy Alliance news release about the report, Kassandra Frederique, New York State director for the organization blasted de Blasio for not fulfilling his pledge in relation to marijuana arrests:
New York’s marijuana arrest crusade has resulted in significant harms for those who are most vulnerable and has been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color. Over the last 20 years, more than 700,000 lives were irrevocably damaged by New York City’s draconian marijuana arrest policies. As New York finally sheds its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must repair the harms of prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers. There is no excuse for the New York City marijuana arrests to continue at this level in 2017. Mayor de Blasio pledged to end biased policing practices -- if the end looks like more than 61,000 arrests on his watch and the same level of severe racial disparities, then the Mayor has failed to carry out his campaign promises to Black New Yorkers.
The report bluntly states,
The NYPD under de Blasio has taken two years, at an average of 20,000 marijuana arrests a year, to make the 40,000 unjust marijuana arrests it averaged in one year under Bloomberg. We suggest this be regarded as slower injustice, but slower injustice is still injustice delivered.
Most importantly, the NYPD’s marijuana arrests under de Blasio have the same overwhelming racial disparities as under Bloomberg.
De Blasio owes it to the young people at risk of having arrests records because of marijuana apprehensions to end this urban legacy of Jim Crow.