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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 28, 2018

    Cannabis PenaltiesNew York City police are continuing to disproportionately arrest African Americans and Latinos for minor marijuana possession violations, despite ongoing pledges from Mayor Bill de Blasio to halt the practice.

    In 2017, city police made an estimated 17,500 arrests for marijuana possession in the 5th degree — a class B misdemeanor. Consistent with past years, 86 percent percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.

    Since the de Blasio administration took office in 2014, city police have made over 75,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests; 86 percent of arrestees were either Black or Latino.

    Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.

    During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio said that the city’s elevated marijuana arrest totals “demonstrate clear racial bias” and promised to “direct the NYPD to stop these misguided prosecutions.”

    Despite consuming cannabis at rates comparable to whites, recent analyses of marijuana arrest data from multiple states find that African Americans are consistently arrested for marijuana possession offenses at at least three times the rate of Caucasians.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director August 4, 2011

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg, by most all accounts, is one of the most fascinating political characters of the last decade. A self-made billionaire who, with a clear love for his fellow human beings and with great civic pride, chose to effectively become New York City’s mayor for the last nine years—spending more personal wealth than most any other political candidate in US history, for a mayor’s office no less—as the ultimate expression of his ability and want to positively effect as many people as possible, in a city (and region) that he clearly loves, during his tenure in a position where he can get things done.

    Along the way to becoming one of America’s wealthiest individuals, Mr. Bloomberg has donated a remarkable amount of money to many worthy causes, notably in the field to improve public health in America and the world, most especially at his alma mater, one of the best universities in the world, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

    With good health and continued good fortune, who knows what further impact Mr. Bloomberg will choose to make in national politics in his lifetime? He possess all the requisite skills and resources to become president if that’s what he chooses.

    Today we find out that Mayor Bloomberg is once again demonstrating why he is one of the most interesting and charitable politicians in the modern era in reading today’s New York Times about his most recent donation of $30 million to help black and Latino youth get better integrated into the region’s economy, develop valuable skill sets and to find productive employment.

    The Times reports that Mayor Bloomberg’s initial grant will be matched by New York City-based hedge fund manager and philanthropist George Soros.

    Here is the ironic point to this blog post: If Mayor Bloomberg is genuinely serious about creating more favorable employment environs for black and Latino youth in New York City, he should converse with Mr. Soros, who, has donated more money than anyone on the face of the earth in favor of drug policy reform—notably for cannabis law reforms—who, I’m sure would insist that the good mayor stop arresting black and Latino youth in New York City en mass.

    Regrettably, embarrassingly, for such an enlightened and civic-minded man, Mayor Bloomberg has largely maintained the shameful and starkly racially disparate cannabis law enforcement policies that he inherited from former Mayor (and drug prosecutor) Rudolf Giuliani. Mayor Giuliani exploded the annual cannabis arrest rate in the five boroughs of New York City from an average of about 2,000 arrests to an eye-popping 60,000 arrests per year.

    Bloomberg’s administration has, on average, maintained an annual arrest rate for simple cannabis possession cases over 45,000, with a disturbing ninety percent of arrests happening to….black and Latino youth.

    Mayor Bloomberg, please, listen to Mr. Soros and stop arresting and negatively effecting future employment opportunities for an entire generation of minorities in New York City who got caught doing the same thing you did in your more youthful years.

    And look how well you turned out after using cannabis?

    Why deny over 45,000 other New Yorkers (and tourists) annually the opportunity to pursue their life’s goals and dreams just because, like you, absent an arrest for your cannabis use, they chose to use a little ganja to relax? Unfortunately for them and New York taxpayers, they’re getting permanently scarred by your feckless and expensive Cannabis Prohibition law enforcement practices in Gotham.

    Mayor Bloomberg, your generous and thoughtful donation of $30 million—and that of Mr. Soros’—will be working at cross purposes if you continue to give the green light to the NYPD to arrest 45,000 cannabis consumers annually into the criminal justice system, the vast majority of whom are the very population you’re concerned with.

    Mr. Bloomberg, if you’re worried about saving face or “what does the NAACP think about all of this?”, don’t be. Because, hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers and tourists in New York City will very much appreciate the change in policy and the NAACP now supports changing America’s antiquated Cannabis Prohibition laws.

    Mayor Bloomberg, please magnify the positive impact of your philanthropy and concerns for civil society by ending the practice of ‘collaring’ cannabis consumers in New York City, and, instead, return to the cost effective and less detrimental practice to cannabis consumers (notably for minorities) by simply issuing a civil fine in the form of a written ticket for cannabis possession cases rather than employ valuable police time and resources unnecessarily arresting so many black and Latino cannabis consumers.