The rate at which Hispanics and African-Americans, as well as other minorities, are arrested for cannabis is significantly higher than the arrests of Caucasians. The arrest that occurred in NY in 2018 are a prime example. Recent reports that were released by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice found that Caucasians only compromised 7% of all cannabis arrests in the state last year. Meanwhile, 89% of the arrests for consuming cannabis were minorities.
A Pertinent Issue That’s Been Present for Years
While the total number of arrests for cannabis in the state significantly dropped from the previous year the percentage of minorities who are arrested for cannabis grew. This is despite the fact that there have been no noted significant differences in the number of cannabis consumers from either demographic.
This isn’t a new issue in the state of New York either. According to a New York Times editorial from 2012 “between 1997 and 2010, there were 525,000 individuals arrested for public view possession and low-level cannabis-related charges.” Of those, more than 80% of the individuals arrested were Latino or African-American.
The data available at that time was very much in line with what we see today as far as the number of individuals in each ethnicity that consumes cannabis. In that editorial, however, their data showed that Caucasians were significantly more likely to utilize cannabis but more Hispanics and African-Americans were arrested for the plant. Unfortunately, New York is still facing the same issues today despite having a legal medical cannabis program and cannabis being widely decriminalized throughout the state.
Officials Are Well Aware and Addressing the Issue
This is an issue that many New York officials are well aware of. According to the city councilman, Rory Lancman “people of color are over-policed and disproportionately brought into the criminal justice system for low-level offenses,” per an interview with New York Daily News.
According to the Mayoral Spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie, “the Administration has taken a dead aim at disparity by dramatically reducing marijuana arrests, and developing a plan for legalization that aims to write historic wrongs.”
She went on to note that “it’s naive to think that an issue as old and complex as this can be unraveled and solved by the snap of anyone’s fingers.”
She further stated that “it will be a challenge that this Administration, the next Administration and those who follow will have to constantly focus on – and we will continue to do so.”
On a bright note, the total number of cannabis arrests in 2018 was significantly lower than the previous year. In 2017, 17,121 cannabis-related arrests occurred. Between January 1st and November 23rd of 2018, only 7,348 cannabis-related arrests occurred in the state.