This week, we learned that NYC has now become the "marijuana arrest capital of the world." The NYPD arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses last year, making low-level pot possession the number one cause of arrest in NYC. But it's important to note who was getting arrested: according to the Drug Policy Alliance’s report, "86 percent of those arrested are Black or Latino, even though research consistently shows that young whites use marijuana at higher rates."
After our post this morning about the Dutch government's attempts to prevent tourists from smoking their pot, we received an email from a reader who was quite upset: "I am a 63 yr old american male who wanted to check out the pot scene in Amsterdam before I die...A tourist is a tourist is a tourist -- if this puritanical [program] is initiated folks will have to smoke pot hidden away like Anne Frank." As overblown a metaphor as that is, it got us thinking about whether NYers really smoke pot hidden away like Anne Frank, especially considering those arrest statistics.
And though it may not be quite the same as Amsterdam, NYC is seemingly overflowing with marijuana in every corner: firefighters grow it, college kids order take-out, our bank tellers are laundering weed money. Even our Mayor has admitted he's tried it, and liked it. It's not the hidden face of the city—it is the city. And the arrest stats are fractured reflections of that.
So Amsterdam took a step closer to becoming like NYC today, but only a small one. Unless that reader becomes a Dutch citizen, he may not get the chance to experience the marijuana heaven that Amsterdam has long been for pot enthusiasts worldwide. At the end of the day, NYC's terrifying high pot arrest statistics seem to imply that this isn't really about marijuana—marijuana is just the excuse to make a certain number of arrests in certain parts of the city every year, as the Times once wrote about. As long as you're not flippant about your usage, you probably won't get in trouble for smoking pot. Unless you're Black or Latino. Or are a complete idiot. Then you may just be screwed no matter what you do.