Even In White Neighborhoods, Black People Get Arrested More For Marijuana

Photo Credit: Rick Bowmer

File this under “Yeah, We Knew That Already, but Thanks for the Confirmation”: An analysis of police data shows that blacks and Hispanics make up the majority of arrests for marijuana possession—even in areas where the population is mostly white or other ethnic groups.

WNYC conducted the analysis, and its findings were confirmed by retired Queens College professor and Infoshare website runner Len Rodberg—who told the station that its data mirrored data published last year by the Drug Policy Alliance.

“There are neighborhoods where the black or Hispanic population is 10 or 20 percent but they are 80 to 90 percent of the arrests,” Rodberg told the station.

Infoshare analyzed U.S. census data by precinct and provided data for the DPA study in 2017 and the WNYC study this month.

“There’s a lot of variation from precinct to precinct, which probably has to do with the personnel and how they run that precinct,” Rodberg said, adding that there “doesn’t seem to be a departmentwide or citywide policy” to reduce the disparities and the number of arrests for marijuana possession.

The New York City Police Department made around 17,000 arrests citywide for low-level marijuana offenses in 2017. Black and Hispanic people made up 86 percent of those arrests.

The department claims that its arrests are driven by 311 and 911 calls, according to WNYC, but who is calling the police on people smoking weed?

Never mind. Don’t answer that. We know who.

Marijuana legalization is front and center in New York’s Democratic race for governor, and critics have used the arrest data to show why decriminalization is the way to go.

Melissa Moore, DPA’s New York deputy state director, told WNYC, “It’s clear that police enforcement targets people of color, especially black and Latinx people, everywhere in New York City.

“The systemic nature of the problem is clear when reviewing data showing that even in predominantly white neighborhoods, enforcement is targeted at people of color,” Moore added.