Two dozen criminal justice reform groups that back Mayor de Blasio’s effort to decriminalize marijuana said the plan will fall short if those who have previously been arrested for smoking pot continue to be penalized by other city agencies.
In a letter to the mayor, the groups said NYCHA has booted residents busted for smoking pot and the Administration for Children’s Services has used the offense to accuse parents of neglect or delay to them the return of their children.
“The immense harm of these low-level marijuana arrests, borne predominantly by black and Latino New Yorkers, warrants urgent reform,” the letter said. “People arrested for smoking marijuana may lose their jobs and housing, have their children removed and face arrest and and detention by Immigration and Customs enforcement…”
The letter’s authors include Brooklyn Defender Services, the Urban Justice Center and the Legal Aid Society, as well as the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Community Alternatives.
The mayor nearly two weeks ago said he wants the NYPD to stop arresting people smoking marijuana in public and issue a summons instead — a move made following a series of reports that showed that 86% of the nearly 18,000 people busted in the city last year for that crime were black or Hispanic.
The percentages have remained steady in recent years, even as critics have noted that white people smoke pot as much as anyone else.
The NYPD has consistently said the bulk of its enforcement is in response to complaints about marijuana use.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said marijuana busts dropped 32% the past four years, but he acknowledged the racial disparities and said the NYPD has formed a working group to review marijuana enforcement.
The group will release its findings to the mayor mid-month.
Mayoral spokesman Austin Finan said that de Blasio — who in the past opposed legalizing marijuana but now believes it is inevitable — wants to “end unnecessary arrests and the disparity n marijuana enforcement.”
“In the coming weeks, the NYPD will make recommendations on how to close the gap while keeping New York City the safest big city in the nation,” Finan said.