Can you smell it? Longtime residents of New York City have definitely noticed an uptick in the frequency of smelling herb around the city. The NYPD has reduced the amount of arrests for cannabis related charges, year after year, which are now likely to drop to a new low as cannabis enjoys its most-legal status yet.
According to NY1 News, there have been under 750 arrests in NYC during the first half of 2019. With new statewide decriminalization, the urge to celebrate would be an understandable response, but when you consider that 90% percent of these arrests are Black or Latinx New Yorkers, the revel turns to rage.
With New York State’s new rules going into effect, allowing not just New York City denizens (who have been under decrim since the 70s, not that it ever stopped enforcement) to possess and smoke up to two ounces of cannabis, how could even one arrest happen under our watch?
If we’re too busy enjoying our own privilege to smoke—a sort of weed privilege—that only whiteness grants, that’s how.
White Americans have always enjoyed more freedom to use drugs, and New York State has been no different. Ravaged by the opioid crisis, it’s clear that racist enforcement not only harms communities of color directly through violence, brutality, lost public aid, deportation, and harming families—it hurts the entire community by granting white people carte blanche to deal and consume dangerous drugs.
Decriminalizing cannabis and expunging records is a start on the path to drug enforcement justice, but by no means is it a sign of true reform until there is no disparity in the criminal justice system, period.