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NYPD's Marijuana Arrests Disproportionately Target Black and Latino Residents

By Molly Zilli, Esq. on May 02, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's no secret tensions are high between law enforcement and those who believe the cops use questionable tactics to police their neighborhoods. Many take issue with law enforcement's use of force or the high rate of arrests among minority populations. Now, based on statistics for the first three months of 2018, many are claiming that the NYPD's marijuana arrests disproportionately target black and Latino residents.

"Racial Bias" in Marijuana Arrests

The Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) released its findings based on data from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services. They found that in the first three months of 2018, 93 percent of all marijuana-related arrests involved people of color, despite research "demonstrating that white people use and sell marijuana in proportions and numbers equal to or greater than African-Americans and Latinos."

According to the data, there were 4,081 arrests for marijuana possession in January through March. Of those, 287 were white, 2,006 were black, 1,621 were Hispanic, and 146 were Asian or Indian, although race was missing in some arrest records. Those numbers show that blacks and Latinos comprise about 89 percent of these types of arrests made by the NYPD.

NYPD: Cops Responding to Calls From Residents

NYPD officials defend their arrest numbers, saying officers are responding to complaints from residents about people smoking pot, though it does not appear that they've provided data to support that claim. The arrests themselves were for burning marijuana in public or possessing more than 25 grams at a time. PROP says the numbers show that the NYPD targets low-income people of color for minor infractions.

Recreational pot use is still illegal in New York, and despite decriminalizing some weed-related offenses, you can still be arrested and charged with a number of crimes. If you've been arrested or received a summons to appear, contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.

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