Marijuana arrests goal principally black and Hispanics in area

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ALBANY — As lawmakers work to legalize leisure, adult-use marijuana, police proceed to arrest a whole lot of principally black and Hispanic folks for marijuana offenses within the Capital Area’s extra city areas.

In Albany and Schenectady counties, marijuana arrests surged in 2017 and 2018, virtually completely amongst folks of coloration, whereas arrests of white folks fell to a file low, in accordance with a evaluate of arrest information filed with the state Division of Prison Justice Providers over the previous decade.


In each counties, police charged twice as many black folks in 2018 than they did in 2016 for 4 legal marijuana offenses, regardless of strikes by some legislation enforcement businesses to roll again marijuana enforcement, in accordance with the info, which covers 11 counties.


Officers in each cities stated they’re shocked by the widening race hole, noting that community-police relations have improved dramatically in recent times.

However the group policing initiatives by the Schenectady and Albany police departments has had little influence on police interactions with younger black males in low-income neighborhoods, in accordance with Alice Inexperienced, govt director on the Middle for Legislation and Justice.

“Nothing has modified by way of what we’re listening to on the road,” Inexperienced stated. “Individuals are nonetheless being stopped and arrested.”

DCJS logs arrests for 4 marijuana-related misdemeanor fees — two for possession and two for legal sale of the drug — however the company doesn’t monitor the more and more widespread “illegal possession of marijuana” offense, which is a non-criminal violation. DCJS collects information based mostly on the highest cost.


About 150 black and Hispanic New Yorkers had been arrested in Albany County for 4 marijuana associated offenses in 2018. Against this, 43 white folks had been arrested in Albany for marijuana-related offenses. Roughly half of these arrests had been for low-level possession fees, in accordance with DCJS information.

Albany District Lawyer David Soares introduced final yr that he would cease prosecuting anybody accused of possessing as much as 2 ounces of marijuana, the decrease misdemeanor cost, which carries as much as three months in jail.

The coverage shift took impact in January, and in response, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple directed his deputies to cease making arrests for low-level possession of the drug.


“Extra instances than not they’re violations,” Apple stated. “I truly do not bear in mind the final time a (possession) arrest was made by our guys.”

However Albany police officers stated they might proceed to make use of discretion in implementing the legislation. Since January, Albany police have arrested at the least 40 folks for carrying lower than 2 ounces of marijuana, practically all of them black or Hispanic.


“The Albany Police Division routinely analyzes and assesses information to make sure that operations are according to up to date finest practices,” Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins stated in an announcement. “We’re presently conducting such an evaluation with respect to the most recent information concerning marijuana arrests.”

Schenectady County sees considerably fewer marijuana arrests yearly, however arrest information exhibits an identical widening racial hole.

Chief Eric Clifford instructed the Occasions Union that arrests are used as “a final resort,” however the largely city county additionally noticed an uptick in each low-level possession arrests and legal sale fees within the final two years.

Schenectady officers say they’re reviewing an evaluation of practically 20 years of arrest information that was finished by the New York Civil Liberty Union, which discovered that black residents in Schenectady county had been 74 instances extra prone to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense than white folks, regardless of making up simply 12 p.c of the inhabitants.


An argument usually cited by lawmakers and advocates for legalizing leisure adult-use marijuana in New York is that it’s going to assist rectify racial disparities in policing, notably of low-level drug offenses.

They level to analysis exhibiting the disproportionate influence of low-level possession arrests on minority communities, regardless of surveys indicating that white folks use the drug at comparable charges.

Racially biased marijuana enforcement has traditionally been linked with so-called “broken-windows” policing deployed by police in New York Metropolis beneath mayors Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg.

Within the Capital Area, authorities say arrests are immediately correlated with “high quality of life” complaints, such a reviews of street-level dealing or smoking in public.

However extensively accepted policing methods, together with crime mapping, ends in extra officers in low-income, principally black neighborhoods in cities all through the state, in accordance with Queens School sociology Professor Harry G. Levine, an knowledgeable on marijuana policing.

Marijuana arrests are a byproduct of the broader policing patterns of the place police departments are sending their officers and what they’re asking them to do,” Levine stated. Rookie officers “are assigned to enter low-income neighborhoods and write tickets.”


New York has been on a path to legalization since 2014, when it authorized medical marijuana for a handful of power medical circumstances. Hundreds of individuals convicted of marijuana offenses might also have these legal data expunged beneath the legislative package deal that will legalize and commercialize adult-use marijuana.

One hurdle dealing with coverage makers, although, is how to make sure that minority communities which have been over-policed for marijuana offenses for many years may also profit from the business.

“We each agree together with the invoice sponsors … that group funding and group reinvestment should be the primary goal — caring for the wants of the group that has been has been negatively impacted,” Meeting Speaker Carl E. Heastie stated in a joint press look with Senate Chief Andrea Stewart-Cousins in March.

Research of states in numerous levels of legalization spotlight the persistence of racial bias in enforcement, even when the drug has been legalized.

Researchers discovered that in Washington state, beneath post-legalization, the “variety of arrestees related to an incident for distributing/promoting dropped amongst whites by 67 p.c, however confirmed little change amongst African-Individuals.”

Neighborhood leaders instructed the Occasions Union that they hope the police will scrutinize the info and regulate policing methods accordingly.

“We do have to start out eager about the influence of race in policing,” Inexperienced stated. “They discuss the truth that each time there’s bias it is on the a part of a specific officer, he is a foul seed or there’s unhealthy apples in each division. However what we might say is it is systemic.”

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