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New York City Cannabis Arrests Nosedive 97%

November 8, 2018

Just 151 unlucky souls got arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the city of New York this September—as cannabis law reforms begin to take hold in Gotham.

Earlier today, the group Drug Policy Alliance released new crime statistics from New York City, where marijuana arrests peaked in 2010. More than 4,300 people got popped for pot in the Big Apple in September 2010. By comparison, September 2018 numbers are down 97%, thanks to activist and City Council pressure, which led to new police department policy beginning in May.

As a result, cannabis arrests collapsed this fall. In the first few months of 2018, about 1,300 people per month got arrested for cannabis in New York. After the New York Police Department announced a new action plan in May, arrests dropped to around 500 per month. New guidelines instruct police to not arrest a person for simple possession of marijuana, but rather give them a summons. The guidelines took effect in September, leading to a record low 151 arrests.

I Got Stoned in Manhattan to Celebrate the New “No Arrest” Cannabis Policy

Prosecutors in New York City have also stopped prosecuting small-time cannabis cases.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s marijuana caseload is down from 349 cases in January 2018 to fewer than a dozen in September.

In Manhattan, marijuana arraignments dropped 94% year over year for the month of October. Last month saw just 28 cases.

Critics of cannabis criminalization have long-noted that young people of color bear a disproportionate burden of enforcement, relative to their cannabis use. And even with the advance of decriminalization, people of color still have adjudication rates higher than whites, despite similar usage levels.

Racial Disparities in NYC Cannabis Arrests Are Getting Worse

In September, Manhattan’s D.A. dismissed most open marijuana cases pending in the borough. Of the 3,042 dismissed bench warrants for smoking and possession, 79% were New Yorkers of color, almost half under 25.

“We need to continue to push the remaining NYC D.A.s and prosecutors across the state to take similar action, and keep fighting for the administrative changes needed to deal with the other collateral consequences people face from marijuana arrests,” Drug Policy Alliance deputy state director Melissa Moore said in a release.

Full legalization polls at 60% in New York, but the state lacks a referendum option voters have used to legalize cannabis in nine US states.

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David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He's written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including 'Marijuana Harvest' by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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