Protesters gathered outside Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Upper East Side home in New York City Wednesday to call attention to the city’s unprecedented and inequitable enforcement of marijuana laws.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, “New York City now arrests and jails more people for possessing marijuana than any city in the United States, and more than any city in the world.” Demonstrators insist these arrests, many for simple possession, are a poor use of the city’s resources. City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito claims marijuana arrests are costing the city $75 million a year.
Demonstrators also called attention to an imbalance in marijuana arrests, claiming cops target minorities and low-income neighborhoods. An overwhelming majority - 87% - of people arrested for marijuana possession in New York City are black or Latino, according to Drugpolicy.org. This disparity has been well documented by a number of organizations and sources. Last year the New York Times crunched the numbers and discovered that residents of Brownsville, Brooklyn, a low-income and predominantly non-white neighborhood, were 150 times more likely to get arrested on marijuana possession charges than residents of the affluent, overwhelmingly white Upper East Side neighborhood, where Mayor Bloomberg resides.
Some believe the NYPD’s questionable “” practices contribute to the imbalance in marijuana arrests as police tend to use this method more often on people of color and in predominantly non-white neighborhoods.
Marijuana-related arrests skyrocketed in New York City under former mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, the city has remained a distinctly unfriendly place for pot smokers with Mr. Bloomberg at the helm for two+ terms, despite what appeared to be a casual take on cannabis during the mayor’s campaign. When asked, in 2001, if he had ever smoked marijuana, then-candidate Bloomberg famously quipped, “You bet I did. And I enjoyed it.” In 2002, NORML launched an advertising campaign around Bloomberg’s quote with the hope of convincing the mayor to curtail pot arrests in NYC.