UPDATE: (06/19/2012) State lawmakers fail to reach an agreement on unlawful, racially-biased marijuana arrests this legislative session.
Today, ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson had an op-ed in the Huffington Post calling on state lawmakers to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and end the racially biased and unlawful marijuana arrests that destroy lives and communities.
The op-ed comes in the wake of the New York City Council vote last week to pass a resolution demanding the same thing of state legislators -- that they make the violation similar to a traffic ticket that would not lead to an arrest. The issue moved to center stage nationally on Sunday, when thousands of people participated in a silent Father's Day March in NYC to protest the stop-and-frisk policies that make the need for decriminalization especially urgent. Here's an excerpt from Rashad's op-ed:
As an adult, I know now that there are two New Yorks -- and the one you live in depends on factors such as race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. I have seen the side of the city where people are treated like criminals because of the way they look and the assumed size of their bank accounts. I have seen another side of the city where people trust that they can walk through their neighborhoods without fear of being stopped, harassed and humiliated by police without just cause.
This imbalance is most striking in the policies of the NYPD. In New York, blacks and Latinos are nine times more likely to be stopped by police than their white neighbors. This is a New York where almost 50,000 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in 2010 and -- despite federal data showing that whites are more likely to use marijuana -- 86 percent of those arrested were black or Latino.
The targeting of black and Latino populations through biased law enforcement practices, like the NYPD's "stop and frisk" policy, creates loopholes in our existing laws that continue to darken the line that exists between the two New Yorks: a city for white people and a city for everyone else.