Black and Latino Youth Comprise Majority of Marijuana Arrests in New York City

NEW YORK – Officials at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) say data released by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Service and obtained by the Drug Policy Alliance, signals a major change in marijuana policy is needed. The figures show that in 2010, the New York City Police Department made 50,383 arrests for low-level marijuana offenses, making up 15 percent of total arrests and the becoming the leading cause for arrest in New York City. The report also indicates that the majority of those arrested are Black and Latino youth.

“These arrests have long lasting impacts on young people, especially those of color,” states Jonathan Perri, associate director at SSDP. “Over 200,000 students have already lost their financial aid for college due to a drug offense like marijuana possession.”

The report’s startling numbers show that Blacks and Latinos make up 86% of the 2010 arrests and nearly 70% of all the arrests are people under 30 years old. “We know that young whites use marijuana at higher rates so these numbers indicate that something is seriously wrong with the enforcement of marijuana laws in New York City,” explains Katharine Celentano, a leader of the SSDP chapter at Columbia University.

Between 2005 and 2010, arrests for low-level marijuana offenses increased by 41% and an average of 140 people are arrested for marijuana possession every day in NYC, an indication that for the NYC police department, spending resources on violent crimes takes a back seat to arresting marijuana offenders.

“In New York, marijuana has been decriminalized since 1977, but it still remains a top priority for law enforcement,” continues Celentano. “Targeting young minorities for marijuana possession needs to end, and our police resources better spent stopping violent criminals.”

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an international grassroots network of students who educate their peers, parents, and policymakers about how the drug war has failed our generation and our society. SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive drug war policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.
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