NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?
Someone forgot to tell progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that times, they have already changed.
During the then mayoral candidate’s campaign, de Blasio vowed to ensure the New York Police Department would cease to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as a crime, but ever since he was elected, the number of marijuana-related arrests went up. This year, Gothamist.com reports, it went up nearly a third.
In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of fewer than 25 grams of weed. Users smoking or holding the bud in public, however, were still subject to police scrutiny. But while commissioner Ray Kelly was in command between 2002 and 2013, arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana went up considerably. In 2010, low-level pot possession had become the top cause of arrest in the city, mostly due to the fact 50,383 people had been arrested for related offenses throughout that year.
That’s when pressure began to mount.
Faced with countless accusations of racial bias, commissioner Kelly decided to send officers a memo asking them to stop “improper” marijuana arrests, which often involved blacks and Latinos.
Once de Blasio took office, however, marijuana-related arrests dropped, but that didn’t last. In 2014, police had made 26,400 weed-related arrests. Now, recent figures show that the number of people going to prison for related offenses has increased considerably.
During the first half of 2015, NYPD had arrested 7,236 people for marijuana possession, but during the same period this year, the number went up to 9,331: A 30 percent increase.
Despite de Blasio’s campaign promises, things might not get better for pot smokers in the Big Apple unless state laws change.
A bill from 2015 that is still stuck in the state legislature could help give marijuana users more peace of mind. But the bill isn’t perfect.
If S. 1747, or the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, passes, marijuana would be regulated and taxed like tobacco and alcohol. Proponents of similar pieces of legislation often say that while similar measures might have a negative effect on the overall cost of weed, it would keep officers from knocking people’s doors down in the middle of the night. But to many libertarians, only decriminalization of all substances, including marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, works.
Mises Institute’s David Gordon argues in a piece from 2002 that punishing a person for using drugs is to “impose a severe disability on him; and justice requires that punishment be imposed only on someone who violates rights.” Drug use, therefore, cannot be criminalized simply because it could lead to bad social consequences. After all, Gordon continues, “[t]o punish people simply because their acts encourage others to act in a way deemed undesirable is to use people as means, in a morally unacceptable way.”
Despite the strong support the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act has obtained over the past year, many proponents of the bill believe that it could take years for something similar to pass through the state legislature, forcing New Yorkers to think twice before stepping outside with a small amount of weed in their pocket.