Drug Policy Alliance’s Marijuana Report Is Misleading — Arrests for Possession Down by Over a Third

By New York City Mayor’s Office

In November 2014, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD changed the City’s approach to marijuana enforcement rules to enhance fairness without sacrificing safety or responsiveness to community concerns.

Under the new policy, if police find someone in possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, officers issue a summons instead of making an arrest, with only a few, limited exceptions. Police will only make an arrest for possession of 25 grams or less if the marijuana is burning or there is a significant law enforcement reason (e.g., active warrant, probable cause to believe the person was involved in a prior crime, person is being arrested for another offense, evidence of intent to sell). In all other cases, police will issue a summons so long as someone as identification. In the event that a person does not have identification, police will support efforts to positively identify the person, including by allowing the person to contact a third party to obtain identification or by verifying the person’s identity in a law enforcement system (e.g., using a mug shot database).

As a result of this new policy, arrests for marijuana possession are down 37% — from almost 29,000 in 2013 to approximately 18,000 in 2016. This has translated into approximately 9,600 fewer arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers for marijuana possession in 2016 as compared to 2013.

A report released last month by the Drug Policy Alliance — a group committed to legalization — ignores these changes and the resulting reductions in marijuana possession arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers. The report ignores how this administration’s approach to enforcement has resulted in both a safer city and fairer enforcement of state criminal law, which continues to prohibit recreational marijuana use. It also ignores the fact that New Yorkers makes tens of thousands of calls to 911 each year to complain about marijuana.

These are the facts:

o NYPD enforcement overall has dropped significantly even as NYPD continues to drive down crime

o Between 2013 and 2016, arrests dropped 20% — from approximately 394,000 arrests to approximately 315,000 arrests (including 66,804 fewer arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers in 2013)

o Between 2013 and 2016, stops dropped approximately 93% — from approximately 194,000 stops to approximately 13,000 stops (including approximately 150,000 fewer stops of black and Latino New Yorkers).

o NYPD arrests for marijuana possession have decreased at an even faster pace than arrests overall.

o Approximately 50,000 fewer people were arrested for marijuana during the first three years of this administration compared to the first three years of the prior one.

o Marijuana possession arrests are down 37% across all demographics since 2013 — meaning that some 30,000 fewer New Yorkers were arrested over that time.

o Marijuana possession arrests are down to an even greater degree — 40% — for Black and Latino New Yorkers since 2013. Around 9,600 fewer Blacks and Latino New Yorkers were arrested for marijuana possession in 2016 than in 2013.

o NYPD is following the new marijuana policy by making fewer arrests and issuing more summonses, which allow citizens to avoid arrest, jail and a negative record. Criminal summonses for marijuana are up 33% citywide since 2013.

o Public marijuana use remains a concern for New Yorkers and the NYPD is making every effort to balance that with fair enforcement.

o The overwhelming majority of arrests or summonses for marijuana come from community complaints, of which there were 35,000 last year.

o For every one New Yorker arrested for marijuana, two other New Yorkers have made a 911 complaint about marijuana use.

The de Blasio administration remains committed to keeping New Yorkers safe, reducing crime and ensuring the fair enforcement of the law, including marijuana laws.

The Drug Policy Alliance report cherry picks data to inappropriately compare arrests during the first three years of de Blasio Administration to the first three years of the Giuliani era.

Here are the facts:

o Under the de Blasio Administration, after reforming policy on marijuana possession arrests in November 2014, the NYPD averaged approximately 17,000 of these arrests in 2015 and 2016.

o Under 12 years of the Bloomberg Administration, the NYPD averaged 40,000 marijuana possession arrests. Under the administration, NYPD arrests for marijuana possession never fell below 28,000 in a year and reached a high of approximately 50,000 in 2011.

o Under the Giuliani Administration, the NYPD averaged 24,500 marijuana possession arrests, which increased significantly over the course of eight years (and went as high as 51,000 in a single year).