Op-ed: NYPD Wasting Resources on Cannabis Enforcement

While the city waits with shallow, anxious breaths for news of the latest victim of street violence, who remains in critical condition as of Wednesday evening, the New York City Police Department continues to arrest New Yorkers for cannabis, a plant that has been decriminalized since the 1970s. 

Look at the literal meaning of street violence: 106 pedestrians and 17 cyclists have been killed by cars in New York City’s five boroughs thus far in 2019. Is that not violence in our roads at its most accurate description?

We view automobile collisions as mere “accidents” and the people who fall victim to cars as flawed—often blaming them for their own deaths—while our police department continues a disgusting status quo of not even ticketing those responsible in most cases. 

Intent does not change the impact of the killings, and we as a city seem to consider the carnage to be a part of our bargain with transportation. As people die at faster rates than last year, our mayor putzes around the Midwest “playing prez.” The thuggish police department favors a racist enforcement policy on our already marginalized residents over investigating preventable losses to our communities caused by cars. 

Now it’s clear, the thousands of officers let their “bad apples” create raw injustice in communities of color—out of scope of the law—while cars and drivers salivate over dodging a simple 30 second red light—even if it kills someone. 

Don’t believe me? Just take a Citibike and cruise down the “bike lane” on Tompkins Avenue in Brooklyn, past the 79th precinct—who contributed to the 600+ cannabis arrests so far in 2019– and you’ll see what I mean. They will cut you off without a signal or sign, with absolute impunity, just to turn in front of you and into their parking lot faster than the three seconds it would take to let you ride by, as they do to me and other cyclists regularly.

This is the tiniest example of the absolute impunity that we’ve given our police force, among the most glaring being the six figure paycheck we give to Daniel Pantaleo, the murderer of Eric Garner. This climate has allowed toxic masculinity and a disdain for humans—and the very earth itself—to rule the streets of New York. 

We, the citizens of New York, and our mayor, Bill de Blasio, have been allowing continued inaction over police brutality and traffic violations to kill people. Cannabis doesn’t kill, but contact with the NYPD—or one of their SUVs—just might.

The NYPD uses cannabis arrests to penalize and harass people of color, lengthening the days of Stop and Frisk. Just 23 of the aforementioned arrests were white people—despite repeated increase of public access to cannabis and redirection from multiple parties, they arrest Black and Brown people for cannabis 89% of the time. 

While they fart around in their cars, essentially racially profiling our fellow citizens from a cushy seat, for something that is just-about-legal, drivers are killing a record number of cyclists and pedestrians, and they’re doing it while breaking actual laws. 

Don’t you think it’s high time we redirect the NYPD into actually protecting life and liberty, rather than snatching it away with no consequences, or their other specialty, allowing drivers to mow us down and claim a mulligan?

How many could have been saved by devoting the resources into holding drivers accountable? Consider the lives who could continue with less strife after not being accosted by law enforcement for a plant and whatever fallout they choose to inflict?

Our energy is wasted on their hijacked weed mission—and it keeps New Yorkers at risk. Continued cannabis enforcement props up police brutality, and it ignores blood in the streets.

Instead of stopping dangerous traffic violations and speeding, they’d rather subject New Yorkers of color to nuisances, indignities, and often much, much worse—none of it is acceptable, and none of it is going unnoticed.

Emerald contributor since May 2017

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