Cops and racially profiled stoners are both presumably enjoying some more free time as low-level cannabis possession arrests have plummeted 90 percent in just one year. According to a press release from the Drug Policy Alliance, just 151 people were arrested for small possession in all of New York City in September. That’s less than 10 percent of the more than 1,500 cannabis possession arrests in the same month last year.
The DPA warns, however, that even though arrests have gone way, way down, the underlying problem of racial discrimination in cannabis arrests hasn’t gone anywhere. Black and Latinx people still make up roughly 80 percent of marijuana summonses, the organization said.
The sharp decrease in cannabis arrests comes after some dramatic changes to the NYPD’s policies on cannabis. In May, the department announced a directive to stop arresting people for small time marijuana possession and instead hand out a simple summons, as reported by Leafly.
Even though the policy didn’t officially go into effect until September, arrests dropped almost immediately after the announcement. In May there were only 500 arrests. By September that number had more than halved.
City prosecutors were also directed not to prosecute such cases. In addition, Manhattan D.A.’s have dismissed most of their pending cannabis cases.
The height of cannabis persecution in New York was in 2010. In September of that year, more than 4,300 cannabis arrests took place. As of this year, that number had dropped more than 97 percent.
But the fight is far from over, according to the DPA. “The 90% drop in marijuana arrests in New York City is a positive development that will have a profound impact in the lives of New Yorkers,” wrote Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
“But this is not enough. There are still racial disparities in the 1,000-plus summons that were handed out in September for marijuana possession, which can turn into open warrants and have harmful impacts, which advocates and City Council will continue to examine.”
Frederique also urged Governor Cuomo and other New York Democrats to lead the way toward legalization in the state. As of July of this year, 60 percent of state voters were in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis.
Photo via Flickr user Roberto Bosi