A New York Police Department report from last quarter shows that out of 291 people who were arrested in the city for marijuana, more than half were Black and only 18 were white.
From July to September, Black and Hispanic people made up 90% of low-level marijuana arrests. Out of the total 291, 167 were Black and 95 were Hispanic. Asians or Pacific Islanders made up 11. Broken down by gender, 272 were men and 19 were women.
The age group arrested most for marijuana was people between the ages of 25-34 (103). Next, 71 arrests were people 20 and under, and 62 were people ages 21-24. Fifty-five arrests were people from 35-65, and no one 66 or over was arrested last quarter. The 47th Precinct, which makes up the portion of the Bronx including Woodlawn, Wakefield, Williamsbridge, Baychester, Edenwald, Olinville, Fishbay and Woodlawn Cemetery neighborhoods, saw the most arrests, at 15.
In July, the New York State Legislature passed a bill decriminalizing up to 2 ounces of cannabis. Since then, the number of marijuana arrests has greatly decreased. But the racial disparities remain.
During the same quarter last year, 1,117 people were arrested for marijuana charges. Of those, 600 were Black, 414 were Hispanic and 64 were white.
These racial disparities can have painful effects. Black and Hispanic people are more likely to be killed in the hands of police than whites. An August study from Rutgers University-Newark compiled data on police-involved deaths in the U.S. and estimated the risks of being killed in a law enforcement encounter by age, race and sex.
The study concluded that Black men, Native American/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latinx men are most likely to be killed in the hands of police. According to the statistics, the risk of a Black man being killed by police is 1 in 1,000. For all men, the risk is 1 in 2,000.
Similar racial disparities in marijuana arrests have occurred in New Jersey, according to a new study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In the state, marijuana is not decriminalized, and the number of arrests for minor marijuana charges has risen. In New Jersey, Black people were 11 times more likely to be arrested than white people.
According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans believe marijuana should be legal.