Harry Levine of “We Are Always Encouraged When the Police Decide to Obey the Law”


Much of what we know about the racial discrepancy between marijuana use and marijuana arrests in New York comes largely from the research of one man: Queen College sociology professor Harry Levine. Levine is the go to guy for information on marijuana and the criminal justice system, a kind of Nate Silver of drug statistics who can tell you just about anything you want to know concerning the war on drugs in our town.

We relied heavily upon Levine’s research for this week’s Voice feature story “White Mayor’s Burden,” which took Michael Bloomberg to task for wanting to help young men of color while disproportionately locking them up for low level marijuana use. After the stunning news that Ray Kelly has ordered the NYPD to actually follow the law and stop arresting people for small amounts of pot, we circled back to Levine to get his thoughts.

Here’s our (edited) conversation.

How did you first hear about Kelly’s order?

I got an email from Robin Steinberg of the Bronx Defenders saying, “WOW!!!” And it had the ” target=”_blank”>you and everyone else who has revealed their improper and often illegal arrest practices. And we’ve put up news about it at our new web site, We’ll be staying on top of what happens. | @steven_thrasher


The White Mayor’s Burden
Ray Kelly Finally Does the Right Thing with Weed Arrests
Crime Higher in Neighborhoods Without Marijuana Dispensaries, RAND Corporation Finds
Michael Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative: the Full Report
Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance Responds to the Big NYPD Marijuana News

Go to Runnin’ Scared for all our New York news coverage.

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