NYC Mayor de Blasio Called Out on Marijuana Arrests

By Habit 420
Oregon Cannabis Connection
The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, ran for office in 2013 as a liberal and many expected changes in the marijuana arrests that have been happening across the city over the past decades. De Blasio made the curtailing of the cities “stop and frisk” policy a priority, partly due to the racial disparity in arrests. It turns out that any attempts he has made at “reforms” have been hard to see, and one mayoral candidate in this years election has called him out on his recent claims.

Mayoral candidate Robert Gangi, a long shot candidate by almost every estimate, sent an email to his supporters criticizing comments de Blasio recently made at a campaign event he was holding. Politico reported:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is being called a liar by one of his Democratic rivals after the mayor said at a campaign event last night that among the changes he implemented was “ending arrest for low-level possession of marijuana.”

De Blasio made the remark during a candidate forum in Manhattan, hosted by the Village Independent Democrats.

Robert Gangi, a longtime prison and police reform activist, sent an email to supporters Wednesday morning titled, “de Blasio’s Marijuana lies” and citIng New York state statistics showing that during the first three months of 2017, the NYPD made more than 5,000 arrests “for the possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana.” Gangi writes: “That’s nearly 400 arrests per week” and 91 percent of the people arrested were people of color.

The police watchdog group, Police Reform Organizing Project, or PROP, said in June 2016 that 86.5% of roughly 46,600 misdemeanor arrests in the first three months of 2016 involved people of color. Gangi, who is the director of PROP, said at the time to the New York Daily News, “While virtually all these numbers demonstrate that NYPD arrest practices are marked by waste and racial bias, the statistics that stand out for us involve arrests for misdemeanor marijuana offenses.”

In fact, Politico recently reported that the arrests were back up, after being down the first couple of years in de Blasio’s term. Politico reported in February, “The NYPD’s own numbers show 17,672 arrests in 2016, a 10 percent increase from the 2015 number the department provided.”

In December, de Blasio said on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, “We were going to greatly decrease the use of stop-and-frisk. We did that. We were going to institute neighborhood policing. We’re doing that. We were going to stop the things that were causing a rift between police and community. For example, we stopped the arrest for low-level marijuana possession.”

Yet, the racial disparity in arrests continues as inequitably as ever. The data compiled by PROP shows major disparities. In Manhattan 43.8% of black defendants were convicted and sentenced, compared to 16.5% of white defendants. On Staten Island, it’s 52.9% of blacks being convicted, compared to 26.5% of whites.

A spokesperson inside the Manhattan DA’s office told, “A spokesperson for the Manhattan DA’s office said that “in low-level marijuana misdemeanor cases in Manhattan, prosecutors rely on a standardized process to guide case dispositions. This process does not take into account a defendant’s race or ethnicity, but does factor in a defendant’s previous arrest record.”

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Habit 420 is a Oregon Medical Marijuana Program participant for over ten years, a grower, and an activist. He believes cannabis has a unique place in our society and should be embraced for medical and adult use. To correspond with him, email him at

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One thought on “NYC Mayor de Blasio Called Out on Marijuana Arrests

  • 05/08/2017 at 7:23 pm

    If crime is diaproportionately reported in area’s with a disproportionate demographic, cops will focus on that area and the statistics for arrests should be expected to be diaproporrionate. You can’t simply look at statistics and say it’s racist because of disproportionate numbers, you have to account for other variables.

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