When it comes to the question of legalizing marijuana, some of the most important factors to consider center on how cannabis prohibition laws are enforced. Specifically, racial and class-based disparities in weed-related arrests, summonses, convictions, and incarceration.
Numerous studies on the subject consistently show that people of color are arrested more often than white people for cannabis offenses. In fact, a recent one found 94% of cannabis-related busts involved people of color. Interestingly, past studies typically found that actual consumption rates are more or less the same across racial lines.
Now, a new study continues to affirm this longstanding trend. But with an interesting new finding. According to the new data, white people in New York City actually report consuming weed more than people of color. Yet despite this difference, people of color continue to face harsher enforcement.
New Data on Cannabis Consumption in NYC
The New York City Department of Health recently published a number of stats related to cannabis consumption.
Data used in the report comes from the most recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey. Numbers are based on survey respondents’ answers and refer to activities in 2015 and 2016.
In particular, the study breaks down consumption based on various demographic factors such as age, race, and more. Key findings include the following:
- 24.1 percent of white New York City residents reported consuming cannabis in the past year.
- 14 percent of black city residents reported consuming cannabis.
- 12.3 percent of Latinx New Yorkers reported consuming cannabis in the previous year.
Racial Disparities in Policing
Despite the fact that white people tend to consume more cannabis than people of color, other studies have shown that NYPD disproportionately targets and goes after people of color.
For example, a 2017 study from the Drug Policy Alliance took a close look at arrest rates for marijuana related offenses in New York City. This study found that people of color are far more likely to be arrested for cannabis than their white counterparts.
Specifically, the study found that 86 percent of all marijuana possession arrests between 2014-2016 were people of color.
That number is disproportionate in at least two key ways. First, it is out of step with actual population demographics. Specifically, while people of color comprise 51 percent of New York City’s population, they make up a much larger proportion of the city’s weed arrests.
Similarly, the arrest rates for people of color are out of proportion to who is actually consuming cannabis. As revealed in the brand new study from the NYC Department of Health, white people are actually consuming more cannabis than anyone else.
And yet, white people continue to get by relatively unscathed. Even in 2019, police data from NYPD shows the same racial disparities in weed law enforcement. Specifically, and as reported by Patch, NYPD made 1,061 arrests for low-level marijuana possession during the first six months of 2019.
People of color accounted for almost 93 percent of those 1,061 arrests. Meanwhile, fewer than four percent of possession arrests during that time were white people.
In an attempt to address this ongoing racial disparity, the state of New York recently decriminalized the possession of small amount of marijuana. However, the state failed to make weed legal this year.