When Bill de Blasio was running for New York City mayor last year, he noted that marijuana arrests, which fall most heavily on black and Latino males, “have disastrous consequences,” and pledged to curtail the practice of ratcheting up what should be a minor violation of the law into a misdemeanor. This week, says the New York Times, a report showed that such arrests were continuing at about the same pace as last year; the de Blasio mayoralty had not appreciably changed the number of such cases.
The Legal Aid Society has a roster of clients who face misdemeanor charges for possession of minuscule amounts of pot because, it was charged, they were “openly displaying” it. About 75 percent of those charged had no prior criminal convictions, and more than 80 percent were black or Latino, said the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance. The case of Anthony, a black man, is a powerful illustration of how disruptive such a charge can be. On Aug. 16, he said, he was getting a ride home. “I wasn't even in the car 10 minutes,” he said. “We got pulled over … They said it was a brake light. Asked for the usual, license and registration. Mind you, I'm the passenger, I'm not thinking about it.” The driver was ordered out of the car and searched. Then Anthony was told to get out. A moment later, an officer rooted around in the car, and both men were handcuffed. “He said it was a weed pipe in the center console,” Anthony said. “I said: 'Why am I getting arrested? I'm just the passenger.' “