People of color made up 94% of marijuana arrests by NYPD in 2020, data and Legal Aid says

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

Black and Brown New Yorkers were the most impacted by marijuana-related arrests in 2020, NYPD data shows, something the Legal Aid Society is using as a springboard to call for the enactment of the Marijuana Regulation And Taxation Act.

With the data showing that 94% of all arrests relating to weed impacted people of color in the five boroughs, the organization representing the poorest New Yorkers pro bono says the state bill is an opportunity to end what they believe is a racist practice in law enforcement, and give back to these communities.

“The data affirm that New Yorkers of color are still overwhelmingly shouldering the brunt of the NYPD’s racist marijuana enforcement while other communities get a free pass,” Anthony Posada, Supervising Attorney with the Community Justice Unit at The Legal Aid Society, said. “To correct the racist origins of the prohibition of marijuana that still very much exists today, Albany must enact the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) immediately to ensure that our clients, those from criminalized communities, will obtain equity, racial justice, and priority access to the benefits that legalization will create.”

Graph provided by Legal Aid Society

The bill sponsored Senator Liz Krueger and currently stalled in different committees since January 2019 would legalize the harvest, distribution and sale of marijuana across the state for people over the age of 21, the particulars of which would be managed through a new government apparatus that would possibly go by the name of the “office of cannabis management.”

Graph courtesy of the Legal Aid Society

This revived call for a legal avenue for black and brown New Yorkers who use the plant comes as city Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a report stating that the New York City had spent an average of $447,337 per every detainee in jails managed by the Department of Corrections in fiscal year 2020, representing a 30% increase over the same period prior.

This increase in costs have been attributed to hiring more corrections officers to create a higher detainee-to-guard ratio, and despite this, acts of violence increased in 2020.

“My analysis of the Department of Correction shows that its spending is continuing to fail to deliver meaningful results for New Yorkers – and it’s why I’m putting them on the Watch List for the fourth year in a row,” Stringer said. “The cost to incarcerate a single individual on Rikers has exploded even as our jail population remains near historic lows – yet rates of violence continue to climb. That means we are spending more and more money to incarcerate fewer and fewer people and reducing the safety of both officers and people in custody in the process. We must reimagine our criminal legal system, dramatically reduce the pretrial population, and invest our taxpayer dollars in the resources and programs—from housing to health care—that prevent incarceration in the first place.”

Read Stringer’s report here.

As New York faced a new year under the oppression of COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in his January State of the State address that his administration would work to legalize weed in New York as a means of drawing tax revenue and would be coupled with legalized sports betting.