Although several states have legalized marijuana, Black people are still being arrested at an alarming rate for weed because of racially biased policing. A new policy proposed by New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has sought to reduce public marijuana arrests.
The New York Police Department was urged Sunday (May 20) to stop arresting people who smoke marijuana in public, according to the New York Post. De Blasio advised officers to instead hand out summonses for sidewalk toking, as New York takes a cue from other states and moves toward making marijuana legal.
“My focus now will be helping to craft the critical regulatory framework that must come before legalization is realized,” the mayor said.
De Blasio’s move could have national implications if other states follow his lead, including possibly spurring police departments to address racial disparities in weed arrests. Nationwide, the number of arrests of Black people for marijuana outweighs that of whites, despite roughly equal usage rates.
Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana, according to the latest research from the ACLU.
The War on Drugs has been tied to the historically aggressive, racially biased enforcement of laws pertaining to marijuana within Black communities. As marijuana legislation has come to states such as Vermont and California, there has been a reduction in arrests nationwide. However, the reduction hasn’t included African Americans who are still targeted and thrown in jail at a higher rate for weed, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
New York cops can still detain smokers with open arrest warrants whom they see smoking, and possibly also frisk them for weapons or other contraband, according to the Post.
Racially biased policing must be addressed to help end racial disparities with arrests. The NYPD said they are working to “ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust,” but there’s more than must be done, especially considering that New York police officers have been caught in horrible brutality incidents and were responsible for fatal shootings of people of color.