Data that has been recently released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services indicates that New York City arrests related to cannabis have dropped to under 17,000 for the first time in over a decade. There was a total of 16,590 arrests were a low-level cannabis possession in 2015 is a forty-two percent drop from the 26,386 in 2014 and a sixty-seven percent decline from the approximate 51,000 arrests in 2011.
It is a fact that the New York Police Department has been on a cannabis arrest mission for the last two decades. Billions of dollars have been spent already, and there have been millions of hours have been wasted to accumulate almost 700,000 arrests for minimal cannabis possession. Even worse, eighty-six percent of the people that are arrested are black or Latino, even though white people statistically use marijuana more.
But things began to change gradually in 2010 when the VOCAL-NY, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, the Center for NuLeadership, and the Drug Policy Alliance started a multi-sector campaign to show the prejudice and waste of resources at the heart of the war on cannabis in New York. There have been reports published, most of which at Albany and City Hall, pleaded for legislative fixes, and reported stories of people have had their lives ruined because of small pot possession.
And at the moment, those people are winning. In 2015, cannabis arrests were at the lowest rate they have been since 1996 when George Pataki was Governor of New York. But activists are happy that cannabis arrests have declined in general, but it does not mean that the war should be won. Simple cannabis possession arrest have been dropping for the last four years, but they are still nineteen times the rate they were at the beginning of the 90’s.
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