Over the past 20 years, the NYPD has devoted significant resources and manpower toward making marijuana arrests. So much so, that some advocates have called it a “crusade” against cannabis.
In an effort to make a lasting change in the policing culture, 2010 saw a coalition of groups including VOCAL-NY, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, the Center for NuLeadership, and the Drug Policy Alliance launch a multi-sector campaign to expose what they see as the racism and waste at the heart of marijuana enforcement in New York.
They published reports, rallied at Albany and City Hall, pushed for legislative fixes, and told the stories of individuals who had their lives upended because of a simple marijuana possession.
Newly released arrest data suggests their efforts are paying off. According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996.
The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42% decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67% drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.
In 2015, marijuana arrests were at the lowest they’ve been since 1996.
While marijuana advocacy groups hailed the data as a sign of progress in the fight against the “war on drugs,” they still cite how much work remains to be done.
Simple marijuana possession arrests have been on the decline for the last four years, they still remain 19 times the rate they were at the start of the 1990’s.
Furthermore, despite the overall decline in arrests, there’s been virtually no change in the racial disparity of the arrests. Black and Latino New Yorkers still make up nearly 90 percent of those arrested for low-level marijuana offenses.
(Photo Credit: Rex Ziak Via Getty Images)