Blacks Arrested 7x more than Whites in NYC for Marijuana from 2018 – 2022, NYPD Marijuana Arrest Data shows

  • Blacks were Arrested 7x more than Whites, NYPD Marijuana Arrest Data shows (2018 -2022)
  • 98% Decrease in Marijuana Arrest in NYC since NYC Marijuana Legalization (2018 -2022)
  • Brooklyn (1,953) has the most Marijuana Arrests than any other borough. The Bronx is second with (1,884)

Good news. Some things in NYC are getting better. No, not the summer trash smell, bedbugs, rats or the crazy cover charges to get into an empty club on Steinway Street on a Tuesday?! Today we’re talking about marijuana arrests and how they’ve decreased every quarter since 2018 when NYC started reforming its archaic cannabis laws. We will also analyze how these arrests were distributed among boroughs, ethnic groups, and ages. We downloaded the public NYPD Marijuana arrest data from here and created the charts below to visualize the data.

These are the NY Marijuana Legalization Laws, which has lead to the overall decline in arrests you will see below.

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Table of Contents

Black & Hispanics are Arrested more for Marijuana than other Races in New York City

In the past, over 17,500 people on average were arrested each year for marijuana possession in the Big Apple. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of those arrests affected the black and Hispanic communities the most — crippling opportunities, homes, and neighborhoods. A study from John Jay College found that “blacks and Hispanics consistently had higher rates of arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession compared to whites.” 

Time after time, white people who were caught with the same amount of marijuana were not punished the same way as other groups. The John Jay study also found that in 2017 “for every white person arrested for marijuana possession, 8.1 black people were arrested in New York City.” 

Like many other places in the country, it pays to be privileged. These small-possession misdemeanors have created an unwashable stain on peoples’ records and made it so much harder to find jobs and get student loans and mortgages. 

With the blatant disparity in arrests and the current pro-marijuana sentiment from constituents and the national political landscape, it only made sense for NY to start making drastic reforms — which they started to do. 

Real Change Starts

In 2018, the New York City Police Department decided to slash public smoking arrests by more than half and just give tickets instead. To make things even better, in 2019, then Governor Cuomo cleared 160,000 people of their marijuana convictions from their records. 

“For too long, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana and have suffered the lifelong consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction.”

Since that time, marijuana has become legal for recreational use, and arrests are going down. But what do the actual numbers have to say?  

 Arrests Since 2018 Have Decreased Dramatically

Yes, it’s true, the numbers are going down — a lot. In the second quarter of 2018, there were 2,652 marijuana possession arrests in NYC. In the first quarter of 2022, there were only 35 arrests. This is a 98.7% difference! 

Since 2018 to 2022’s first quarter, there have only been 6,538 arrests. When compared to the 17,500 per-year arrest average in the past, these numbers are very hopeful and encouraging.  

NYC Marijuana Arrests by Year
Source: NYPD

 What Borough Had the Most Arrests?   

Out of the 6,538 arrests from 2018-2022, Brooklyn saw the most arrests with 1,953, and the Bronx came second with 1,884.  

NYC Marijuana Arrests by Borough
Source: NYPD

What Race Had the Most Arrests?

Black people were the highest group arrested with 3,442, and Hispanic people were second with 2,437. When putting that in perspective, only 378 white people and 227 Asians were arrested. This dramatic difference really shows the disparity between different groups in the city and how the NYPD, consciously or subconsciously, interacts with everyone. 

NYC Marijuana Arrests by Race
Source: NYPD

What Gender Had the Most Arrests? 

Men had the most arrests, with 6,010, compared to women with 528.  Gender was defined in the data as only a Men and Women.

NYC Marijuana Arrests by Gender
Source: NYPD

 So What Does This Mean 

The numbers do not lie. NYC is becoming a greener and more chill place to live. Snack sales in bodegas are probably skyrocketing. And arrests for marijuana possession are going down. However, that’s how it should be. Cannabis is legal for both recreational and medical use in NY, so people who are over 21, acting responsibly, and buying cannabis from legal vendors should not be punished in any way.  

Although the numbers of arrests have plummeted, it is important for the city to examine the dramatic disparity between arrests and ethnic backgrounds. Why are black and Hispanic people arrested so much more than other groups? How can the city offer more objective and fair policing? And most importantly, when will NY pardon all of the people with low-level marijuana offenses? In one study by the nonprofit group Drug Policy Alliance, 867,701 people were arrested for minor offenses between 1990 and 2018. 

This is also one of the reasons we support Master P’s 520 Cannabis Freedom Day movement. We are pushing for nationwide criminal reform for marijuana offense.

It’s high time for New York City to mend the past and continue to improve the future. 

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Brendan Irving

NYC living, food-loving, music-making, and party attending writer working in the ad business for the last eight years. Actor to ad man, Brendan got his start writing comedy and sketches and performed all over NYC and the tri-state area. He is now committed to writing powerful pieces that will put a smile on any face.

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