New York City Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Jumaane Williams and Letitia James issued the following response to comments made by Frank Barry, a spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg, regarding the city’s marijuana arrest policy and pending legislation at the state level (S.5187 / A. 7620) that would de-criminalize the public display of small amounts of marijuana. The comments were published in New York Times’ columnist Jim Dwyer’s piece on Wednesday, June 15th (available at http://nyti.ms/mjjV2I).
“The responses provided by Mayor Bloomberg’s spokesperson, as quoted in The New York Times, provide further evidence of how disconnected Mayor Bloomberg is with Black and Latino communities. No matter how much the administration thinks that arresting youth for what amounts to low-level marijuana violations is helping to stem violence, this could not be further from the truth. These arrests only serve to engender distrust between low-income communities of color and the NYPD, which will only undermine the Police Department’s efforts to address real crime in our neighborhoods. In a time of limited resources, the NYPD should be focusing on violence that impacts our communities, rather than on the overzealous enforcement of low-level marijuana violations, which has already been de-criminalized by the state.
“Efforts are currently underway at the state level to de-criminalize the public display of small amounts of marijuana. In stating that this bill will lead to the proliferation of ‘open-air drug markets’ on our streets and the ‘reversing (of) successful efforts to clean up neighborhoods,’ the administration is employing scare tactics, which should not be tolerated. Let us set the record straight. This legislation will do nothing to legalize the open sale or possession of large amounts of marijuana, but will close a loophole in the law that criminalizes tens of thousands of our young people each year, when they are asked to remove small amounts of marijuana from their pockets, and then arrested on the grounds that it was exposed to public view.
“According to data released yesterday, the NYPD is on target to make 60,000 marijuana possession arrests this year—more than any other year in history. Although statistics show that Caucasian youth make up the majority of marijuana users, almost 90% of those arrested in recent years have been Black and Latino youth. This is nothing short of a race-based policy of enforcement, and it must be stopped. We call upon the Mayor to support the bipartisan legislation introduced in the State Legislature by Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Jeffries.”