The NYPD is under fire after a troubling new report revealed that Black and Latinos have a higher rate of being arrested for marijuana in New York City.
The racial disparities were defended by NYPD officials who said law enforcement officials were responding to complaints by residents by calling 911. But City Council members criticized the NYPD, citing a report that states some 86% of marijuana busts are of Black and Latino people.
According to the New York Daily News, there were about 17,500 marijuana possession arrests last year—a 40% drop since 2013, after Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered most people caught with pot in their possession to get a summons instead of getting arrested.
“The racial disparities have not changed one bit, and arrests are still too common in communities of color,” said Councilman Donovan Richards, chair of the public safety committee. “If the administration is serious about changing this disparity, we’re not seeing it.”
Atlanta changes marijuana laws
In other cities like Atlanta, the City Council passed legislation eliminating jail time and reducing penalties on possession of small amounts of marijuana. Atlanta arrest rates were a concern for the city also and Black residents were reportedly arrested for possession of marijuana at an alarming rate.
The move brought Atlanta closer to other large cities across the nation that are either lessening penalties on pot or decriminalizing it altogether. Many states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California have even legalized and decriminalized marijuana use.
Similarily, Kansas City, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Nashville are among a growing number of cities that have passed various laws in the past few years allowing residents to possess, grow or share certain amounts of marijuana without going to jail as well.
New York’s racial disparity
According to reports, NYC could not produce any proof that complaints came primarily from areas of people of color.
“I refuse to believe that in New York City, a city of 8 and a half million, that the only individuals calling 911 or 311 on this issue are people in communities of color,” Richards (D-Queens) said. “You can walk around City Hall these days, and walk through the park and you will smell marijuana being burned.”
Another issue is that, “Enforcement throughout the city is wildly uneven,” said Councilman Rory Lancman, chair of the justice committee. He noted that the NYPD failed to produce any documentation to support its claim that arrests line up with complaints.