Report from NYC: Creating an Equitable Industry in the Face of Racial Disparity

With legalization on the horizon, New York City still has serious racial disparities in cannabis arrest rates.
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A new report from the office of Scott Stringer, New York City’s comptroller, underscores the stark racial disparities in cannabis arrests among the Big Apple's 8 million people.

Titled “Addressing the Harms of Prohibition: What NYC Can do to Support an Equitable Cannabis Industry,” the report looks at continued racial disparities in arrests for marijuana offenses between the city’s white population as compared to the black and Hispanic residents.

In New York City, 44.6% of the population is white, 25% is black, Hispanics of any race represent about 27.5% percent and 11% are of Asian descent.

“Today, thousands of New Yorkers, overwhelmingly Black and Latinx, continue to endure the untold financial and social costs of marijuana-related enforcement, despite steps to decriminalize,” according to the report released on Dec. 6, 2018.

This chart shows the breakdown of marijuana arrests by race and ethnicity in proportion to the total arrests in New York City between 2010-2017.

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The report shows that Black and brown people are arrested far more often than white or Asian people, despite comparable use of cannabis.

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The age of people most frequently arrested for cannabis-related crimes in New York City are young adults.

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The report also indicated that the neighborhoods and households with the highest marijuana-related arrest rates are on average among the poor and unemployed.

What's to be done?

"The neighborhoods that should receive reinvestment following the development of an adult-use marijuana program are those that likely stand to gain the most from that funding and support. However, the economic conditions in the neighborhoods with the highest rates of marijuana-related arrests additionally suggest that it is precisely these New Yorkers, those who have been most impacted by marijuana-related law enforcement, who will face the most barriers to participating in a legal cannabis industry," according to the Comptroller's report.

Scott Stringer's office recommends investing tax revenue in the communities that have been most impacted by cannabis arrests; adopting inclusive licensee eligibility requirements, and establishing a NYC cannabis equity program.

We agree.

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