Over the past twenty years, New York State had the troubling distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the country, with more than 800,000 marijuana possession arrests – despite the fact that low-level marijuana possession has been decriminalized since 1977.
This report, which is based on data from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services from 2010 to 2018, shows the vast majority of people arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the City of Rochester were Black (81%) — despite the fact that there are comparable numbers of Black and white residents living in Rochester and government reports consistently show that Black and white people consume marijuana at similar rates.
The new report also documents how Monroe County has one of the highest arrest rates for low-level marijuana-related offenses in New York State: Monroe ranks fifth-highest by county for low-level marijuana possession (outside of NYC). For every one white person arrested for low-level marijuana possession in Monroe County, there are four Black people arrested for that charge, despite white people comprising the majority population in the county and comparable rates of use.
The report concludes that the only way to begin to unravel this legacy of disparate impact at the city, county, and state level is to responsibly regulate marijuana in New York by passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.