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Derek Thomas – Political Analyst
When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s entered into the position a few years ago, he promised a significant reform in stop and frisk policies and a reduction in marijuana arrests.
The New York Times even wrote a piece touting de Blasio plans to curb low level marijuana arrests. The article was full of promising words. The Brooklyn District Attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, would stop prosecuting low level marijuana arrests.
Even verbatim from the article: “the de Blasio administration is publicly embracing the notion that such small-scale possession merits different treatment.” The article even implies that the local administration of de Blasio’s understood that Black and Latino communities were (and are) the most negatively affected by New York City’s aggressive marijuana arrests.
The administration of de Blasio seemed to favor a summons instead of a written arrest – a move that while being less damaging to an offenders’ wallet and arrest record, would still tie up vast amounts of resources from police and the courts for harmless personal marijuana use.
But hey, sometimes you have to appreciate the baby steps, right?
And at first, it seemed as though the new mayor meant what he said. From January 2014 to July 2014, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office dismissed 849 misdemeanor marijuana arrests, about 34% of the total misdemeanor marijuana arrests during that time.
Something strange happened around the middle of 2014 though when articles on the subject of NYC’s marijuana policy stopped being published.
Now, three years later, New York City has regressed into its old ways – and prohibitionist policies are jeopardizing the futures of countless residents.
Just last month, the Drug Policy Alliance released its updated report on the city’s marijuana arrest stats and de Blasio’s policies. The report, aptly titled “Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York”, eviscerates the notion that de Blasio was going to be anything but an enemy to the thousands of patients and recreational marijuana users in the city.
The report, which gets its stats from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, highlights the staggering disparity between white marijuana arrests (14%) and minority marijuana arrests (86%). de Blasio, who partially campaigned on a reduction of rascist and outdated marijuana laws, apparently felt the punch to the chin.
De Blasio struck back Friday, releasing a statement calling the DPA report "misleading" and attacking DPA as "a group committed to legalization." De Blasio's statement emphasized that marijuana arrests had dropped significantly under his administration—something DPA never disputed—but failed to address the claim of continuing racial disparities in arrests. Instead, it merely noted that because pot arrests were down overall, arrests of people of color for pot were down, too.
But the takeaway sentence in de Blasio's statement inadvertently makes DPA's case:
As a result of this new policy, arrests for marijuana possession are down 37% — from almost 29,000 in 2013 to approximately 18,000 in 2016. This has translated into approximately 9,600 fewer arrests of black and Latino New Yorkers for marijuana possession in 2016 as compared to 2013.
In other words, a reduction of less than 11,000 total pot arrests between the two years resulted in about 9,600 people of color not being arrested. De Blasio's own data and arguments show that the city's minorities clearly take the brunt of marijuana law enforcement.
Instead of attacking critics, the Mayor should fix the problem.
Now the mayor may have new troubles to consider. Robert Gangi, a police reform activist and upstart mayoral candidate, is calling out de Blasio’s lies and promising to ACTUALLY fix the problem. Gangi’s promise to unequivocally end marijuana arrests in New York City will undoubtedly benefit countless of blacks, Latinos and whites across the city.
A lesson to Mr. de Blasio: fulfill your campaign promises, or lose your job to someone that will.