Severe Racial Disparities In Cannabis Arrests Continue In NYC

Cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on people of color. A prime example of that can be found in arrest data in New York City. Below is more information about what is currently going on in New York City (which is a situation that is obviously unacceptable) via our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance:

A major investigation by the New York Times found continued racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and arrests in every neighborhood in the City.

The Times found, “Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.”

The Times also debunked the NYPD explanation for the disparities, which the police attribute to more 311 and 911 complaints in certain neighborhoods.

“New York’s marijuana arrest crusade is causing significant harms to the City’s most vulnerable communities and has long been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  “NYPD is funneling tens of thousands of New Yorkers into the maze of the criminal justice system every year and putting people at risk of deportation, losing custody of their children, and barring them from employment and housing – all for nothing more than a small amount of marijuana.”

“Given New York’s embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade,” Frederique continued.

DPA has consistently documented the NYPD’s racist marijuana enforcement over the past decade, including the release of multiple reports.

DPA is currently leading a campaign, Start Smart New York, to pass marijuana legalization in New York, with a focus on racial, social and economic justice.

Last week, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger were joined by organizations and groups dedicated to criminal justice reform, civil rights, and public health as they stood in support of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), a bill that would legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The bill would effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York State and would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

The legislation also ensures tax revenue generated from marijuana legalization is put to use repairing communities devastated by harsh enforcement of prohibition by directing revenue to fund job training, adult education, youth development programming, establish or expand community centers, bolster re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated, and otherwise support community-focused programming in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war, in addition to education, public health, and drug treatment.

Racial Disparities Persist Among NYC Cannabis Possession Arrestees

Having grown up in New York State Clifford Robinson knows firsthand that New York’s cannabis laws are harmful. That is why he advocates so passionately for cannabis reform in the state of New York, including in New York City. Cannabis possession arrest data shows that racial disparities persist in New York City, which is obviously unacceptable. Below is more information about it from our friends at NORML via a press release they issued recently:

New York City police are continuing to disproportionately arrest African Americans and Latinos for minor marijuana possession violations, despite ongoing pledges from Mayor Bill de Blasio to halt the practice.

In 2017, city police made an estimated 17,500 arrests for marijuana possession in the 5th degree – a class B misdemeanor. Consistent with past years, 86 percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.

Since the de Blasio administration took office in 2014, city police have made over 75,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests; 86 percent of arrestees were either Black or Latino.

Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.

While law enforcement officials alleged that the high volume of arrests was a result of citizens’ complaints, a analysis found no evidence to support that claim.

During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio said that the city’s elevated marijuana arrest totals “demonstrate clear racial bias” and promised to “direct the NYPD to stop these misguided prosecutions.”

Despite consuming cannabis at rates comparable to whites, recent analyses of marijuana arrest data from multiple states find that African Americans are consistently arrested for marijuana possession offenses at least three times the rate of Caucasians.

Uncle Cliffy Supports The Effort To Bring Sensible Cannabis Laws To New York City

New York City is home to some of the largest cannabis arrest disparities in the nation, with racial minorities getting arrested for cannabis at a significantly higher rate than non-minorities. Cliff Robinson was born and raised in New York, and while he didn’t grow up in New York City (Cliff was raised in Buffalo), he is very familiar with the harms of cannabis prohibition.

Cliff Robinson, along with the Uncle Cliffy team, strongly supports an effort by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which will be releasing a major report tomorrow about cannabis arrests in New York City. The report was commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance.

“The racial disparity in arrest rates in New York City is completely unacceptable. A lot of rhetoric has been thrown around, but the math speaks for itself. Cannabis prohibition is not working in New York City and is resulting in selective enforcement. Current policy has failed, and it’s time for a more sensible approach. It is time for New York City, and the rest of the State of New York, to take the handcuffs off the plant.” said Cliff Robinson.

Below is more information about the Marijuana Arrest Research Project’s report release tomorrow via a press release from the Drug Policy Alliance:

On July 11, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project will release a major report commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance.

The report, Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York, shows that despite changing mayoral administrations and police commissioners, the NYPD continues to make large numbers of unjust and racially-targeted marijuana possession arrests.

Despite Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise to end racially-biased policing, marijuana possession was New York City’s fourth most commonly charged criminal offense in 2016.

Black and Latino New Yorkers continue to comprise 85 percent of the more than 60,000 people arrested for low-level marijuana possession on Mayor de Blasio’s watch. Most people arrested are young Blacks and Latinos – even though studies consistently show young Whites use marijuana at higher rates.

The new report shows that the NYPD targets Blacks and Latinos for marijuana misdemeanor enforcement all over New York City. One key finding is that in many neighborhoods where Blacks and Latinos constitute a small minority of the residents, they are arrested in much higher numbers than Whites.

The NYPD arrests Black New Yorkers at 10 times the rate of Whites in Manhattan and 15 times the rate of Whites in Staten Island.

The report includes extensive analyses of marijuana arrest data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and demographic data for all five boroughs. Additional findings are embargoed until the report release.

What :  Press Conference for release of report, Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York

When:  Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 12 p.m.

Where:  Steps of New York City Hall


  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • Marijuana Arrest Research Project
  • LatinoJustice
  • Brooklyn Defender Services
  • Immigrant Defense Project
  • Individuals directly impacted by marijuana prohibition