Wild-eyed New Yorkers are killing each other in the city streets at an increasing rate, and the culprit behind these cold-blooded acts of violence is… marijuana? At least that’s what NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said, attributing the city’s 15-20 percent surge in drug-related murders to cannabis.
“The seemingly innocent drug that’s been legalized around the country,” Bratton said during a press conference earlier this week. “In this city, people are killing each other over marijuana more so than anything that we had to deal with in the ’80s and ’90s with heroin and cocaine.”
The most recent statistics from the NYPD indicates there have been 54 homicides so far in 2015 – about nine more than in the same timeframe last year – with 75 percent of them committed with the use of a firearm. According to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, the majority of these killings are associated with drug-related robberies.
“These are not turf battles,” Boyce said. “These are ripoffs of marijuana dealers, robberies.”
The NYPD’s theory is that marijuana must be the catalyst for murder because police keep finding it at the scene of the crime. However, as Gabriel Sayegh, the managing director of policy & campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance, points out: substances or specific items found at a murder scene are not necessarily the roots of evil.
“Marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance in the U.S. and in New York and, therefore, is far more likely to be found on New Yorkers than any other drug,” Sayegh said in a statement. “It appears that finding marijuana on the scene of a violent crime is enough for Bratton to assert a causal link. Using that rationale, we can make other causal links to violence. For instance, if police find a cell phone at the scene of a violent crime, then certainly the cell phone must cause that crime.”
While Bratton’s latest pot propaganda campaign may have been intended to give lawmakers a reason for pause when considering further legislation to reform the marijuana laws in New York, his latest statement is actually the perfect argument for why marijuana should be legalized and controlled under a regulatory system. After all, if Bratton’s claim is true, then the most sensible way to stop the bleeding would be to end pot prohibition and eliminate it from the black market.
If the NYPD believes pot is contributing to drug massacres all across the city, policy experts suggest the department get behind pro-marijuana legislation in 2015.
“If Bratton wants to end the violence in the illicit marijuana marketplace,” Sayegh said, “he should support the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act introduced by Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. We know more policing won’t fix these problems. If Commissioner Bratton is serious about the health and safety of New Yorkers, he needs to let go of the outdated and dangerous reefer madness propaganda. It’s time for a new approach.”
It should be noted that the overall crime rate in NYC is down significantly – more than 10 percent – with 2014 marking the lowest murder, robbery and burglary rates ever recorded in the city. In fact, NYC recently experienced a two-week, murder-free streak.