Brooklyn Boro

As marijuana busts fall citywide, people of color are still arrested most

November 18, 2019 Noah Goldberg
Prosecutions for low-level marijuana possession are way down in Brooklyn in the first four months of 2019, compared to a year ago. AP Photo/Josh
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Marijuana arrests continued to plummet during the second half of 2019, with fewer than 300 people arrested citywide on low-level possession charges, according to police statistics released Monday.

Just 291 people were arrested on the three lowest marijuana possession charges from July through September, as opposed to more than 1,000 arrests on the same charges in the third quarter of 2018. Despite the reduced numbers, arrests on possession charges continued to predominantly affect black and Latinx New Yorkers.

“While this data demonstrates that these arrests are down significantly compared to years ago, black and Latinx New Yorkers are still disproportionately targeted by the police for low-level marijuana possession,” said Anthony Posada, supervising attorney of the Community Justice Unit at the Legal Aid Society.

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The public defense group called for the state legislature to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, to legalize cannabis, which was decriminalized but not legalized in New York in 2019.

Marijuana possession arrests have been down all year since the NYPD’s 2018 policy of giving out summonses instead of arrests in most cases of smoking in public.

The numbers have trended down every quarter of 2019, with more than 600 arrests from January through March, 400 arrests from April through June, and fewer than 300 from July through September.

Monday’s numbers reflected NYPD arrests for criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth and fifth degrees, as well as unlawful possession of marijuana.

Criminal possession in the fourth degree means possessing between two and eight ounces of marijuana, while criminal possession in the fifth degree means having between one and two ounces. Unlawful possession of marijuana is anything below an ounce.

Of the 291 people arrested citywide, 167 were black, 95 were Latinx, 18 were white and 11 were Asian or Pacific Islander.

About 30 percent of the total low-level marijuana possession arrests occurred in Brooklyn, which outpaced the rest of the city’s boroughs in arrests. Queens had the second most at 67.

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