NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Continues the Marijuana Arrests He Called 'Unjust and Wrong'


Office of the Mayor

The Drug Policy Alliance reports that "despite campaign promises made in 2013, marijuana possession arrests under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are on track to equal—or even surpass—the number of arrests under his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg." Last July, by contrast, De Blasio claimed "the lowest-level marijuana arrests are down, and the focus is on serious crime, as it should be." Who is right? It depends on how you count.

From January through August of this year, according to a new report from DPA and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project (MARP), the NYPD made 19,684 petty pot busts, compared to 20,080 in 2013, the last year of the Bloomberg administration. That's a 2 percent drop. But DPA and MARP argue that the decrease is attributable to "record?breaking levels of snowfall" in January and February of this year, when marijuana arrests were down substantially compared to the same months in 2013. The monthly total under De Blasio was higher in March, April, June, July, and August. If you look at at the six most recent months for which data are available (March through August), De Blasio's total is slightly higher than Bloomberg's last year. Another way of looking at it:

In the 12 months of 2013, the NYPD averaged 79 marijuana possession arrests a day. In the 8 months of 2014, the NYPD averaged 81 marijuana possession arrests a day. 2014 surpasses slightly 2013 in daily marijuana arrests.

Hence the DPA's claim that the 2014 total is likely to be very close to the 2013 total. Even if there's a slight decrease, De Blasio's supporters should be disappointed, since during his campaign he made a point of decrying racially skewed law enforcement practices in general and petty pot busts in particular. Here is how he framed the issue in a 2013 summary of his policy positions:

Low?level marijuana possession arrests have disastrous consequences for individuals and their families. These arrests limit one's ability to qualify for student financial aid and undermine one's ability to find stable housing and good jobs. What's more, recent studies demonstrate clear racial bias in arrests for low?level possession—despite roughly equal usage rates. This policy is unjust and wrong.

Yet that unjust policy continues under De Blasio, and its burdens continue to fall overwhelmingly on blacks and Latinos, who accounted for 86 percent of arrestees in the first eight months of this year. These pot busts are especially galling because the New York legislature decriminalized possession of up to 25 grams (about nine-tenths of an ounce) way back in 1977. DPA and MARP report that New York cops continue to convert that citable offense into a misdemeanor by manipulating or forcing people they stop into revealing any pot they are carrying, then charging them with publicly displaying marijuana:

Most people arrested for marijuana possession were not smoking it: they typically had a small amount hidden in their clothing, vehicle or personal effects. The police found the marijuana by stopping and searching them (often illegally), or by tricking them into revealing it.

The resulting charges generally do not result in much time behind bars and are often dismissed. But that does not mean the costs they impose are trivial—a point New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer illustrates with the story of Anthony, a 28-year-old black man who was riding in a car that was pulled over in Queens last August for a malfunctioning brake light. The cops found a pipe with what they identified as marijuana residue in the center console and charged Anthony as well as the driver with possessing marijuana "in a public place open to public view." Dwyer explains what happened next:

He immediately lost a job that he had held for seven years as a school bus driver. It had already cost him close to $7,000 in lost wages….

The police officers issued the driver and Anthony desk appearance tickets, meaning they had to appear in court this week, more than two months after the stop.

"I come back to work that Monday, and they said, 'We got to let you go because you've been arrested and your fingerprints came back to us in Albany,'" Anthony said. "They knew the date, the time. They said, 'We'll give you your job back once you prove your innocence.'"

Anthony puts his annual salary at about $40,000. By this week, when the case finally went to court, Anthony was out more than two months' pay. The driver showed up and, in a quick negotiation, pleaded guilty to a traffic violation and agreed to pay a fine of $180. Since Anthony was not behind the wheel, he could not make the same deal.

The district attorney's office offered to dismiss the case in a year if Anthony stayed out trouble. But that would mean a full year out of work. A new offer was made: dismissal after 90 days. That would still be an additional three months of out of work, on top of the two he had already lost. The case was adjourned.

This is precisely the sort of injustice that De Blasio promised to end.

I previously checked in on pot busts under De Blasio here and here.

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  1. De Blasio claimed “the lowest-level marijuana arrests are down, and the focus is on serious crime, as it should be.

    Anyone who refers to marijuana use in any capacity as a serious crime should have his seriousness about prosecuting crimes seriously questioned.

    1. Maybe just leave the stuff alone until it’s unambiguously legal. Cops who just want to mess with you because of the way you look are happy to nail you for it, and politicians always lie.

      It’s possible to live without it.

      Just work to get it legalized.

      1. If you had read the NYTimes story, Homple, you would know that Anthony claims that he was just a passenger in the car and he would never have ridden in it and risked his job if he knew it was there.

  2. Blasio has the “socially liberal” half down.

    I figure Reason already covered the LA Senate primary where Landrieu is running against the med-mj while her strongest Reppublican opponent is for it.

    1. On the state level, Jindal is aware that it will come here and that it would likely pass if voted on now, but he will not sign it. He doesn’t want it happening on his watch. I don’t get that, but ok.

      The landrieu situation is very interesting. Her supporters say she is pro-oil/gas and chairs the energy committee so we need her.

      I point out A) she only votes pro-oil/gas when it is safe that it won’t mean anything, Obumbles agenda will go through anyway. If it was a close vote, if she was the tie breaker you can bet your left nut she will vote with Obumbles.

      And B) After the Republicans take the Senate, a near certainty, she will only chair two things; Jack and Shit.

      Her supporters are morons.

      Cassidy on the other hand….standard pol. I expect nothing but slimy from him. That is acceptable. He has no sins of yet and will not vote with Obumbles. I can live with that for a while , then we can throw him out. Small price to pay to be rid of Bloody Mary.

      1. And she lives in a mansion!

  3. So a Commie lied. Huh. I guess there is a first time for everything. Poor NYC voters got taken in.

    1. Feminists say it’s never appropriate to blame the victim, but in this case…

  4. These arrests limit one’s ability to qualify for student financial aid

    It sucks for the individual, of course, but does it make me a cynic to see this as a possible plus? Given the vast amount of student aid debt and its negative effects.

  5. Shocked that a “law is the law” socialist would support his.

  6. You guys, he said they were unjust arrests! What more do you want? Get off his back already!

  7. Every election season we hear a cacophony of voices all swearing to right the course of the country/state/city. They all have different solutions. After one wins they continue the same policies and programs of their predecessor, sometimes even doubling down on them. The third and fourth Bush Administrations being prime examples.

    I wonder what this means?

    1. It means that capitalism has failed and we need to try socialism this time. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s never worked before… well ok, it’s always been a miserable failure, but we have the right people to make it work this time!

      1. The various flavors of socialism have only been directly responsible for the murders of a couple hundred million or so people. Seven billion minus a couple hundred million leaves plenty left for more doomed from before the start experiments in socialism. Nonetheless, the USA usually does things on a much grander scale than anywhere else ever does, so ours could be last time anyone ever wants to experiment with socialism ever again. Assuming anyone anywhere is left alive when our socialists are finished with their failed experiment.

      2. You know perfectly well that true socialism has never been tried.

    2. Jesus. Somebody needs to play Depression Quest.

      1. No

  8. So you’re saying that he’s the Obama of NYC? I’m shocked.

  9. OT: They’re doing the “God Bless America” crap at the World Series game, seventh inning stretch.

    Yes, I’m an atheist, but most public religious displays don’t bother me. But GBA really, really, really does. It sucks on so many levels:

    1) The song is abysmal
    2) The seventh inning stretch already had a perfectly good tradition in place
    4) Baseball games aren’t long enough already

    1. The song is abysmal

      Irving Berlin has a sad.

      1. Yeah, it’s not exactly a personal favorite, but there’s no denying that Irving Berlin knew how to write songs.

    2. They had to wait until Harry Caray died before switching the stretch song from TMOTTBG to GBA — you can’t have a drunk murdering a patriotic song.

    3. I’m tired of jingoism at every damn televised sporting event.
      Folks, it’s a GAME! These guys are swinging bats as balls, for pete’s sake! Put a rag in it, Marine singer!

      1. Bats as balls? I read somewhere about a fella with a similar medical condition; two penises, one testicle.

      2. Fun fact: The Star Spangled Banner being played at Baseball games was an important Reason it was made the national anthem in the first place.

  10. On one hand he’s thinks it’s wrong. On the other hand he’s perfectly pleased to continue on. On one hand he’s Warren Wilhelm. On the other hand he’s little Billy de Blasio. The perfect progressive politician. He’s everything for everyone and nothing for no one. Bizarro!

  11. If we had a functioning justice system in this country, assholes like DeBlasio would be doing hard time for aggravated hypocrisy.


  12. If we had a functioning justice system in this country, assholes like DeBlasio would be doing hard time decorating a gibbet for aggravated hypocrisy.

  13. The Drug Policy Alliance reports that “despite campaign promises made in 2013

    Not reading past…

  14. Maybe just leave the stuff alone until it’s unambiguously legal. Cops who just want to mess with you because of the way you look are happy to nail you for it, and politicians always lie.

  15. Yeah, it’s not exactly a personal favorite, but there’s no denying that Irving Berlin knew how to write songs.

  16. my classmate’s ex-wife makes $69 /hr on the computer . She has been without a job for 8 months but last month her income was $15888 just working on the computer for a few hours. see page…


  17. Of he is. He’s a socialist. That makes him a disingenuous liar.

    1. He’s a disingenuous liar. That’s makes him a perfect politician.

      What a piece of shit. There are degrees of “Piece of Shittedness” – deFuckYouOH! pegs the needle* at the high end.

      PS Do the kids these days know what “pegs the needle” means? Cause I think most have not/will not experience a VU meter or anything in their lifetimes. unless they work in a plant (HAH! Fat chance!) where a lot of equipment meters (fluid pressure, etc.) are still analogue. Well, if your plant was built in 1956 like mine…


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