Marijuana Arrests Down 40% In New York City

By May Wilkerson 11/25/15

Mayor Bill de Blasio apparently has kept his promise to cut down arrests for minor pot possession.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised last year that the New York Police Department would stop arresting people for minor pot possession and apparently he’s kept his word. Marijuana arrests are down 40% from last year, the New York Post reports.

As of October 20, the NYPD had arrested 18,120 people for marijuana-related infractions, compared to 29,906 arrests over the same period last year, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice.

Last year, after pressure from activists and district attorneys to decriminalize pot, de Blasio told the NYPD to ticket people caught with 25 grams or less instead of arresting them. Since then, there have been very few arrests in some parts of the city, while ticketing has increased overall.

But though pot arrests have decreased citywide, enforcement remains far more prevalent in certain parts of the city. For example, in the “upscale” Bronx neighborhood Throgs Neck, police issued 415 tickets for marijuana possession and made just 48 arrests in the first nine months of this year. This compares to another Bronx neighborhood, Kingsbridge, where there were 720 arrests and only 168 tickets issued.

By the end of September, police had issued 13,081 tickets for marijuana, and expect to issue 16,000 by the end of the year. This is up from the 13,378 tickets given out last year, and 13,316 the year before.

However, the number of arrests is still higher than the number of tickets given out. Marijuana remains illegal in New York City, which some legal experts say has created a difficult “balancing act” for police officers caught between enforcing the law and following de Blasio’s orders.

“The police are being left in a nowhere land. No matter what they do, they’re subject to criticism,” said John Jay College criminal justice professor Eugene O’Donnell. “For cops it’s not really about marijuana; it’s about finding marijuana on the way to finding a gun or more serious narcotics.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.