Low-Level Marijuana Arrests Targeting Large Numbers of Minorities Still on the Rise in New York

Bill de Blasio

As reported by The Huffington Post, Bill de Blasio, a candidate for New York City mayor last year, promised to end marijuana arrests, noting that they have “disastrous consequences for individuals and their families.” As mayor, however, de Blasio is not living up to his promise.

According to a report released yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, between March and August of this year, NYPD made hundreds more low-level marijuana arrests than they did during the same six-month period under New York City’s previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

The report, which draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, depicts the blatant racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests: the NYPD continues to arrest Latinos at nearly four times the rate as white people and black people at seven times the rate of white people. This is in spite of numerous studies that demonstrate that young black people and Latinos in New York and elsewhere are no more likely than their white counterparts to use marijuana.

Moreover, the report analyzes the number of arrests by neighborhood, showing that the majority of arrests are centered in predominantly black and Latino areas.

“The NYPD is clearly never going to do on the Upper West Side, where there are two dozen arrests each year, what they’re doing in the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, where there are more than 300,” said Gabriel Sayegh, managing director for policy and campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It just wouldn’t be allowed.”

Ultimately, the report portrays a typical arrest victim as a young person of color who generally abides by the law. In fact, as relayed in the report, three-quarters of those arrested for marijuana this year have never even been convicted of a misdemeanor.

“As a whole, we in the communities of color voted for him,” said Anastasia Sanders—a 21 year old woman from Prospect Heights in Brooklyn who voted for de Blasio hoping he would reform the police department’s practices. “So for us to continue to be arrested, to be honest, it’s not fair, and we just wish we had his support a little bit more.”

Overwhelming Majority of Delaware Voters Support Making Marijuana Legal

A new poll conducted by the University of Delaware finds 56% support for legalizing marijuana, with just 39% opposed. Earlier this year, Rep. Helene Keeley, Sen. Bryan Townsend, and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry sponsored legislation to reduce the penalty for simple possession of marijuana from a criminal charge to a civil fine. This is a strong step in the right direction.

Under current Delaware law, possessing even a small amount of marijuana is a criminal offense, carrying up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,150. And the effects of a conviction don’t stop there. A criminal record can make it difficult to find a job, obtain educational opportunities, or even find adequate housing.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have replaced the threat of jail for possession of marijuana with a fine. If you are a Delaware resident, ask your state representative and senator to make the same modest reform, and then ask your fellow Delawareans to call for this long overdue reform, too.

Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Law Makes the Substance Legal to Possess but Impossible to Obtain

As reported by Iowa Watchdog, in May, Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the Medical Cannabidiol Act. The law allows for residents of Iowa to possess small amounts of cannabidiol if a neurologist certifies that the non-psychoactive oil derived from marijuana plants is necessary for the treatment of a child with intractable epilepsy.

On Tuesday, the Administrative Rules Review Committee of the Iowa State Legislature gave final approval to the procedures by which the Iowa Department of Public Health will address the new law.

Beginning on January 30, 2015, after filing the appropriate paperwork and being approved by IDPH, a parent or primary caregiver of a child diagnosed with epilepsy will be able to receive a specific form of identification that will allow them to possess up to 32 ounces of cannabidiol.

They will not, however, be able to obtain the actual oil. In fact, cannabidiol will remain illegal to produce or sell in the state of Iowa. Moreover, in Colorado and Oregon, the states where the oil is legal, it is illegal to sell to nonresidents. Therefore, even if an approved resident from Iowa were able to buy the oil in one of the states where it is legal, transporting the substance across state lines remains a federal crime.

“That’s the reality of the situation,” Deborah Thompson, policy advisor for IDPH, told Iowa Watchdog. “There are still some very fundamental barriers to parents getting the oil.”

According to state Rep. Rob Taylor, R-West Des Moines:

Rob Taylor

“It was a very limited bill. All it did was give citizens of Iowa who possess and are registered with the state safe harbor under Iowa state law. Meaning we wouldn’t prosecute them if they have cannabidiol,” Taylor said.

When asked what purpose it served to create an approval process of a substance that Iowans will not be allowed to legally obtain, Taylor stated, “It’s one more tool in their toolbox for families dealing with a very, very disturbing disorder.”

State Department’s Top Drug Warrior, William Brownfield, Says Federal Government Must Tolerate Making Marijuana Legal

According to Reason, William Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, called for flexibility in interpreting anti-drug treaties.

“How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”

When asked about the federal government’s position on the regulation and taxation of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, Brownfield described a clearly prescribed policy:

William Brownfield

“The deputy attorney general’s words were that the federal government will not intervene in the application of the laws of Washington and Colorado on marijuana legalization, but will monitor and hold them responsible for performance in eight specifically designated areas…. We have a national interest to ensure that this does not cause undue harm….”

“The United States of America reserves the right and can at any time it chooses enforce the law against marijuana and cannabis cultivation, production, sale, purchase, and consumption in Washington state and Colorado. The deputy attorney general in a public document has asserted that for now we will not do that unless it crosses the line in eight specifically identified categories in those two states.”

Although there is a long way for the federal government to go in terms of completely eliminating its prohibitionist attitude, those associated have been compelled by the political circumstances in the U.S. to accept that there is value to alternative policies. This is a good sign for countries that have been pressured by the U.S. to mimic and help enforce American prohibition.

Marijuana Ordinance Debate Scheduled in South Portland, Maine

The Current reported that a debate on the ordinance to make marijuana legal in South Portland will be held next week on Wednesday, October 22, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the South Portland High School, 637 Highland Avenue.

The South Portland School Department and Social Studies Department have arranged the event to give concerned residents the opportunity to educate themselves on the issues surrounding the referendum in South Portland prior to Election Day on November 4. If the referendum passes, it will allow residents to use and possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as allow the possession of paraphernalia.

Those participating in the debate include David Boyer, the Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, who will be arguing in favor of the passing of the ordinance, South Portland Police Chief, Edward Googins, who will be arguing against the passing of the ordinance, and Susan Sharon, of Maine Public Radio, who will be moderating the debate.

Please support the South Portland referendum by attending the debate and encourage friends, relatives, and neighbors to do the same!

Marijuana Policy Project