The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance — who we talked to extensively for last year’s Voice feature “The White Mayor’s Burden” — put out a scathing press release yesterday writing that the NYPD arrested 50,680 New Yorkers for marijuana in 2011, making it the highest year for the Bloomberg administration and the second highest year in the history of the city (just 587 arrests behind the record holding year 2000, when the Giuliani NYPD arrested 51,267 people for pot).
Given that the overwhelming majority of people arrested for pot are black and Hispanic young men, it’s ironic that 2011 saw a continuation in the increase of marijuana arrests. After all, 2011 was the year Mayor Mike rolled out the Young Men’s Initiative with an alleged desire to “help” young men of color. It was also the year NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was forced, after Bloomberg’s initiative was so widely mocked, to clarify that stop-and-frisks couldn’t include illegal searches that made marijuana become in public view because a cop had illegally taken it from a citizen’s pocket.
And yet, despite this, the marijuana arrests rose last year all the same.
Here are the most fascinating numbers the DPA’s release claimed (emphasis ours):
— With its nearly-chart topping year in 2011, the NYPD has made more than 100,000 marijuana possession arrests for the last two years; nearly 150,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last three years; and more than 227,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last five years.
— New York City spent at least $150 million in the last two years and has spent at least $340 million in the last five years making marijuana possession arrests.
— In the last decade since Michael Bloomberg became mayor, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost of $600 million dollars.
— Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos.
— In the last five years, the NYPD under Bloomberg has made more marijuana arrests (2007 to 2011 = 227,093) than in the 24 years from 1978 through 2001 under Mayor Giuliani, Mayor Dinkins, and Mayor Koch combined (1978 to 2001 = 226,861).
Mind you, as the release notes, “Since 1977, possession of small amounts of marijuana has been a violation, a non-arrestable offense – unless it’s burning or in plain public view.” The only way it’s in “public view” is because of stop-and-frisk.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 2, 2012