In recent months, New York City Mayor de Blasio has received a lot of attention for the large number of marijuana arrests in the city, and the racial disparity demonstrated in those arrests. People are very upset, especially because part of de Blasio’s campaign platform revolved around lowering the unnecessary marijuana arrests in New York City. Timing of the news about the marijuana arrest rate coincided with the explosion of the American Civil Liberties Union report which revealed that black people are almost four times more likely, on average, to be arrested for marijuana than white people. The report was titled, The War On Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests. This combination of information released caused quite the uproar.
Now, it appears as though Mayor de Blasio has put his foot down in an effort to actually lower the amount of unnecessary marijuana arrests by ordering the NYPD to stop the practice of “buy and bust” weed arrests. An anonymous source told the NY post that during a meeting, representatives from each of New York City’s five districts were collectively told,
“The powers that be don’t want to see any more of these [pot] arrests.”
Buy and bust arrests are undercover operations where an officer purchases marijuana from a dealer on the street in a lower income neighborhood. This initial arrests is used as a jumping off point for police to search the suspect for weapons and to reference police databases for arrest warrants from previous crimes. Then the hope is that this minor pot arrest can lead to a larger bust if the suspect is willing to give up information about other related, or not related, crimes.
According the the NY Post source, during the same meeting, Chief of Narcotics Brian McCarthy instructed each department representative to begin focusing on making arrests for harder drugs instead of marijuana. McCarthy reportedly brought up the abundance of pharmaceuticals and heroin being dealt on the black market, in the city, as a suggested redirection of focus.
The marijuana law reform movement that is sweeping across the United States, and the rest of the world, combined with the information revealed in the ACLU’s report on racial disparity may invoke a similar drug arrest policy change in other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. It will be very interesting to watch how the views of cannabis in America may shift direction in the next five to ten years.
photo credit: reuters