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NYC Marijuana Arrests Up by Nearly a Third Compared to Last Year

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Two months ago, HIGH TIMES reported that cannabis busts were on the rise again in New York City after Mayor Bill de Blasio instated a policy back in November 2014 barring arrest for possession of under 25 grams of cannabis. And the latest NYPD figures released this week by the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) have only reinforced this trajectory.

According to Gothamist, the numbers show a nearly 30 percent increase in marijuana arrests, from 7,236 in the first half of 2015 to 9,331 in the same period this year. Of those arrested, only nine percent were white—despite statistics that show white, black and Latino people smoke weed at roughly equal rates. While it’s no secret that black and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs, these numbers completely contradict NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who has claimed that his cops police in an impartial and racially unbiased manner.

“It challenges directly Bratton’s statement that, ‘We don’t target communities of color, we target behavior,'” PROP director Robert Gangi said. “Clearly we target community of color.”

 “The hard truth is police have always fucked over people of color,” Gangi told the Village Voice. “And the so-called reforms they’ve enacted are virtually meaningless in terms of practices on the ground.”

Bratton, who recently announced he will be resigning next month, has reportedly been encouraging reporters to investigate “radical fringe” activist groups, such as PROP, instead of focusing on police misconduct.

“You’ve got one character, Robert Gangi, who claims to head some type of activist group that sits in the courtrooms all month long and counts how many minorities come through versus whites in the process,” Bratton told NY1. “Who is Robert Gangi? Who does he represent? Is he appointed by anybody? Does he speak for anybody other than himself?”

Targeting watch dog groups isn’t the first bizarre move by Bratton. Back in May, the police commissioner gave a radio interview in which he claimed legal pot causes violence.

“Here in New York,” Bratton explained during an appearance on AM 970’s Cat’s Round Table, “most of the violence we see is involving marijuana, and I have to scratch my head as we are seeing many states wanting to legalize marijuana, and more liberalization of policies.”

As for de Blasio, who campaigned on the promise of decreasing marijuana arrests, the mayor has seen an overall decline in pot collars since taking office. Arrest for low-level pot charges (possession of less than 25 grams) shot up from approximately 5,700 in 1995 to 50,700 in 2011, but began to decline amid public pressure and procedural changes—hitting 29,000 in 2013. De Blasio saw this number fall about nine percent during his first year in office, with 26,400 marijuana arrests in 2014. However, if arrests continue to climb, he could end back up on the starting block.

Gothamist reports that based on an analysis of court and police costs by the Drug Policy Alliance, each marijuana arrest costs NYC $1,750—or $16.3 million so far this year.

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