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NYC’s Petty Weed Busts Shoot Up In 2016

NYC's Petty Weed Busts Shoot Up In 2016

Politics

NYC’s Petty Weed Busts Shoot Up In 2016

Small-time marijuana possession arrests are on the rise in NYC’s Five Burroughs last year. Earlier today, Politico published 2016 statistics which run counter to New York City Hall’s progressive lip service.

In the past two years, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local figureheads have touted a supposed decrease in New York City arrests for small amounts of marijuana. Yet this news runs counter to the quantifiable proof. The numbers are going up, instead of going down.

So something stinks here.

The New York state Division of Criminal Justice Services reported that the New York Police Department arrested 18,136 people in 2016. That’s 9 percent more than 2015. Marijuana arrests are still down significantly from Bloomberg and Giuliani’s terms, which is maybe the only good news to glean here.

The Village Voice investigated and found that the Mayor’s office is emphasizing attention the global statistics, which show that marijuana arrests have gone down 37 percent since 2011. Both are true, but the 2016 increase in arrests is disconcerting to marijuana advocates and users.

But the NYPD have continued their Broken Window policy since de Blasio took office in 2014. This set of tactics originally instituted by reactionary ghoul Rudy Giuliani has always been controversial. There’s never been scientific proof that any of the Broken Window tactics work, yet the NYPD apparently still does. This likely explains a lot of the shakedowns for small amounts of weed in ungentrified neighborhoods.

What’s perhaps even more alarming is the rate of what type of people the police were shaking down. 85 percent of the people arrested in New York for marijuana possession were black or Latino. Only 10 percent of small weed arrests were white. However, white people comprise roughly 44 percent of New York City’s population. And we know white people smoke a lot of weed too.

This troubling statistic proves again how racial profiling can run rampant, even under supposedly woke local politicians.

Why NYC Low-Level Arrests Matter

NYC's Petty Weed Busts Shoot Up In 2016

Look, we live in a country where national politics are in shambolic shape, to say the least, especially when it comes to marijuana legislation.

The path forward for marijuana is unclear from both legal and cultural perspectives, even before the general election. We have no way or knowing how, when, or if Federal anti-Marijuana laws will be enforced by the Department of Justice with our new Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the helm. Will Sessions come through on all of his threats? Threats like siccing the DEA on states who’ve decriminalized marijuana?

Nobody knows. But these aren’t threats to be taken lightly. If the DoJ wants to punish local governments for their safe spaces doctrines, marijuana might be one lever the Feds pull to unseat local governments in a large scale power struggle.

One common opinion is that we (basically everyone but the ultra-rich) can exert much more control or influence over local politics. The problem is local politics, by definition, are usually not that sexy or captivating. The issues can become so minute that they appear trivial. But these tiny skirmishes often have much deeper implications.

So, we may not be able to stop Sessions from raiding our dispensaries. But we can try to hold local politicians – like mayors, city council members, district attorneys, police departments and governors – accountable. They wield the most power. And these low-level weed arrests are running counter to the decriminalization movement.

As full marijuana freedom becomes inevitable, how the law is enforced on a granular level is perhaps more important than the letter of the law. In that respect, we should pay more attention to the enforcement of laws than the passing of them. That’s all that seems to matter right now.

Jonny Coleman

Jonny Coleman is a GRD writer based in Los Angeles. His work has been featured in in Playboy, Pitchfork, Slate, MTV, Huffington Post, LA Weekly, Thump/Vice, O.C. Weekly, and Time Out LA + NY.

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