Despite the disdain of the New York City Police Department over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to finally pull the city into compliance with state law by decriminalizing small-time marijuana possession, the outcome of this minor policy adjustment has not only proven to be successful, but it should also provide both local and state governments across the country with the fuel to adopt similar reforms.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services recently published a report that shows a significant decline in overall marijuana arrests throughout the city over the past few years. In short, the data reveals that in 2015, arrests for weed in New York City dropped to under 17,000 for the first time in almost two decades. Of these arrests, 16,590 were for simple possession—meaning that only around 400 pot offenders were taken to jail for crimes more severe than holding a little weed.
Interestingly, the results show an impressive turnaround in the way the NYPD is handling pot offenses, especially considering in 2014, cops nailed over 26,000 people for pot—51,000 in 2011. These numbers represent an almost 70 percent decrease in total marijuana arrests in a span of less than five years.
An analysis of the report by the Drug Policy Alliance suggests the “marijuana crusade that had become the norm for the NYPD” has started to weaken.
“New York is finally starting to shed its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world,” Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “Over the last 20 years, more than 700,000 lives were irrevocably harmed by our draconian marijuana arrest policies. We must repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers.”
In the interest of bringing arrests for minor possession to a screeching halt, marijuana advocates and a few state lawmakers are looking to the state legislature to get behind a bill proposed by New York Senator Liz Krueger that would fully legalize marijuana and allow it to be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.
“Marijuana prohibition has extensively harmed our communities and continues to do so,” Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said. “We should be learning from states like Washington and Colorado who have ended their investment in prohibition and instead create a system to tax and regulate marijuana.”
However, even if Krueger’s proposal does miraculously find its way to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the likelihood it would be signed is slim. After all, it was under Cuomo’s guidance that led to the creation of the state’s restrictive medical marijuana law, which, by all accounts, is one of the most ineffective programs in the nation.
(Photo Courtesy of the New York Daily News)