At a City Council hearing this week, Melissa questioned NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly regarding the huge increase in low-level marijuana arrests in the City, which are estimated to cost over $75 million per year, according to a report by the Drug Policy Alliance. Last year, over 50,000 people (84% of which were Black and Latino) were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana, even though it was decriminalized in 1977. In 2010, more people were arrested for marijuana possession than in the entire period spanning 1978 to 1996.
While possession of small amounts of marijuana was previously decriminalized by the State legislature, those who are arrested are typically caught with marijuana “in public view.” However, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that, during stop and frisks, individuals are asked to take out what is in their pockets, thereby exposing what was previously concealed marijuana.
“As the City asks agencies providing vital services to New Yorkers to cut back, it is unacceptable that the NYPD is using $75 million in taxpayer dollars to enforce low-level marijuana offenses,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The disparities in the number of marijuana arrests is just as startling and brings attention to how our criminal justice policies disproportionately target people of color, and in particular our young people, who are too often introduced to the criminal justice system because of these low-level offenses. This funding could surely be better utilized in this time of economic need.”
Last year, the 25th Precinct, which covers El Barrio/East Harlem currently ranked number 14 out of 75 in the number of marijuana arrests, according to an analysis by the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform & Alternatives and the Drug Policy Alliance. 94% of those arrested are people of color. The 23rd Precinct on the West Side of our district ranked number 31 and the 40th Precinct, which covers Mott Haven, ranked number 26.
Click the image above to open video from NY1. Here is some additional media coverage from the hearing:
- New York spends $75 million a year on marijuana arrests though it’s not technically a crime (New York Daily News)
- Critics Argue NYC Overspending To Police Marijuana Possession (CBS News/1010 Wins)
- New York Spends $75 Million A Year On Marijuana Arrests (Huffington Post)