Earlier this month, Mayor De Blasio made an announcement instructing the NYPD to stop arresting New Yorkers for smoking marijuana in public in New York City.
This announcement comes on the heels of a damning NYPD report, which showed that at least 86% of the people arrested for simple possession in New York City were either black or Latino.
The enormous disparity found in this report is nothing new for the NYPD, now facing massive criticism due to its over-policing of neighborhoods that are predominantly people of color.
Possession of marijuana, in small amounts, has been decriminalized in New York since 1977. As long as it was less than 25 grams and not in public view, a summons could be issued carrying a fine of $100.
Despite this fact, the NYPD has continued to make tens of thousands of arrests every year for decades, the height of which came in 2011 and surpassed 50,000 for simple possession alone.
In the first four months of 2017, over 80% of marijuana arrests were people between the ages of 16 and 34, which is on target with previous years statistics.
Arrests for low level offenses are especially damning for lower income families who don't get the same type of representation a white person charged with the same crime can afford. These arrests are also harmful because they come with consequences like not being able to qualify for student financial aid, find safe and proper housing or even a job.
It's undeniable people of color have been overwhelmingly targeted by the NYPD and one of De Blasio's biggest campaign promises was to fix this issue by changing the marijuana laws in hopes that real change would occur.
During the first three years Mayor De Blasio was in office, over 61,000 people were arrested for marijuana (*Drug Policy Alliance of New York).
Unfortunately, this was an increase for the same time period under his predecessor, Micheal Bloomberg. Not exactly the effort New Yorkers were hoping to get from the new Mayor.
In an effort to right this wrong, Mayor De Blasio has taken several steps towards shifting New York's marijuana policy.
One of these steps is to conduct a 30 day review that will take an in-depth look at the racial disparities of marijuana arrests in NYC.
Mayor De Blasio will also assemble a task force assigned with the duty of preparing for full legalization of marijuana in New York.
Last week, the city council approved a bill, Intro. 605-A, which would require the NYPD to publish quarterly reports breaking down their marijuana arrests online. These stats would be broken down by age, race, gender, precinct borough as well as what type of offense was charged.
According to the Mayor's office, it is unknown whether De Blasio will sign the bill. If he does, it will take 60 days to begin.