Earlier this week, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D) criticized New York City's mayor and police commissioner for failing to keep their promise to reduce simple pot possession arrests, particularly of minorities.
Rep Jeffries, who represents New York's Eighth Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens, said, “The new administration promised change, but instead, we got more of the same.”
City officials point to lower arrest totals in 2014. There have been approximately 9,500 low-level cannabis busts through April of this year, compared to more than 10,200 over the same period last year – a decrease of seven percent.
However, pot arrests in March and April of this year were up from the same two months of 2013, and NYC weed busts continue to be racially disproportionate, as minorities make up more than 85 percent of those arrested for pot in 2014.
Rep Jeffries noted: “The overwhelming majority of these individuals were black and Latino, even though statistics clearly show that whites use marijuana in equal if not higher numbers.”
An analysis from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project suggests that pot busts under the new de Blasio administration are on pace to equal the 28,600-plus low-level arrests in 2013 under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office in January, did agree that pot arrests are “unproductive,” and said, "the real thing we're looking for is serious crime."
NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton defended his department by stating blacks and Latinos are not being targeted by law enforcement.
Bratton also offered: “There'll be continued focus on modification of some of the various laws as it relates to marijuana that would then bring about changes in policies and practices within law enforcement.”
Yeah. Don’t hold your breath.
New York City has a long and sordid history with low-level pot arrests despite New York State decriminalizing up to an ounce of marijuana in 1977. Such arrests skyrocketed under the Giuliani administration and continued under Mayor Bloomberg. In 2011, NYC became the pot arrest capital of the world. The controversial stop-and-frisk program was responsible for many of the city’s racially biased pot busts. Unfortunately, such arrests have continued unabated into de Blasio’s administration.