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Marijuana Arrests Are on the Rise in De Blasio’s New York


The "tale of two New Yorks" continues under the city's newest mayor, despite his promise to end racially discriminatory marijuana arrests.

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Despite promises made during his campaign, the number of low-level marijuana arrests has not fallen under New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s leadership. In fact, new figuers (below) suggest they may be on the rise. A new study by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Marijuana Arrest Research Project finds that arrests recorded between March and August were higher this year than during the same period in 2013, while Michael Bloomberg was mayor.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, just as marijuana arrests continue, the same troubling racial disparities also persist. The study found that 86% of New Yorkers arrested for pot possession between March and August were black or Latino, and 74% had no prior convictions. Black and Latino communities, like East Harlem and Washington Heights, had the highest rate of marijuana arrests, while the Upper East Side and Forest Hills had the lowest. Even when comparing neighborhoods with similar median income levels but different racial profiles, researchers still found that race was the most significant factor driving arrests.

The striking racial disparity is especially clear in a map (below), which compares East Harlem and the Upper East Side. It shows that in East Harlem, which is 82% black and Latino, there were 1,128 marijuana arrests per 100,000 residents between March and August; whereas on the Upper East Side, which is 90% white, there were only 10 arrests per 100,000 residents. And this inequality was consistent throughout all five boroughs.

Gabriel Sayegh, managing director for policy & campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance, has called de Blasio’s record on marijuana arrests “an awful tale of two New Yorks,” and called him out for failing on his promise to put an end to the problem.