Weed fans and several elected officials will come together on Saturday to protest what they say are racist marijuana enforcement practices by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the NYPD, and police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Officials from the Drug Policy Alliance say the allegedly racist practices of selective enforcement has created a “Tale of Two Cities” — where white people get away scot free when caught with weed and black people are rounded up and thrown in jail.
“One New York City is for white people, where marijuana possession was decriminalized in 1977, people are seldom stopped and frisked, and mothers do not fear that their teenagers will be rounded up by the police,” the group says. “The other New York City is for people of color, where hundreds of thousands of people are stopped even though most were entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, tens of thousands are illegally searched, falsely charged, arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession (even though it’s not a crime in New York), and mothers are afraid that the police may unlawfully arrest their young people.”
As we’ve pointed out in prior posts about New York’s weed statutes, the group is correct — marijuana was decriminalized in 1977. There are a few exceptions, though — if a person is caught displaying weed in public, they can be charged with a misdemeanor and incarcerated for up to three months.
Regardless, advocates say minorities are jailed at a much higher rate than white people who get busted with weed, which has much to do with illegal searches causing people to reveal their weed in public, thus committing a misdemeanor.
The DPA cites a recent New York Times editorial claiming that of the roughly 50,000 people arrested each year in New York for low-level marijuana offenses, 87 percent are black or Hispanic.
In the last five years under the Bloomberg regime, the group says the NYPD made more marijuana arrests than in the twenty-four years under mayors Giuliani, Dinkins and Koch combined. Again, despite marijuana being decriminalized in New York for more than 30 years.
The group says low-level marijuana arrests make up 15-percent of the total arrests made in the five boroughs, which makes marijuana possession the “number one offense” in New York. And those arrests — and the clogging of the court system they create — costs New York City $75 million a year (again, that’s according to marijuana advocates — we weren’t able to independently confirm the dollar amount).
Regardless of the exact dollar amount, cracking down on marijuana is costing the city money — and it’s costing the city money as it’s cutting funding for things like libraries and after-school programs.
So, if you like weed — and feel like protesting — head down to Foley Square between Lafayette and Center streets at noon on Saturday. For more info on the “Tale of Two Cities,” click here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 9, 2012