Marijuana Arrests in New York Down, But Still Elevated

Minor marijuana related arrests in New York City are down dramatically in recent years, and experts are attributing the drop to new policing tactics. But despite the drop, critics say that not enough has been done.

According to data provided by the Division of Criminal Justice Services, arrests for low level marijuana related crimes were down 34% in the first quarter of 2013, and dropped another 9% in the first quarter of 2014, to roughly 7,000. William Bratton, the Police Commissioner for the city, said that he expects the downward trend in marijuana arrests to continue, while the office of Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., says that police and prosecutors are working together to devise "uniform, better, and fairer" ways to handle marijuana related arrests.

Those opposed to the way New York City handles marijuana related cases say that the arrests continue to be racially disproportionate, and though the statistics are going in the right direction, abuses are still rampant. They note that, since 1977 possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana has been a non-criminal violation in the city, but that arrests went from an average of approximately 2,100 per year in 1978 to 1995, to over 36,000 per year in 1996 to 2011.

This, coupled with the fact that the vast majority of marijuana arrests coincided with the city's implementation of its controversial "stop and frisk" program - which resulted in over 75% of marijuana arrest subjects being Black or Hispanic - has caused local activists to call for more to be done.

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