Caribbean American legislator applauds bid to reduce unnecessary marijuana arrests

NEW YORK – A Caribbean American New York City councilman has applauded New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that he will work to reduce unnecessary arrests and disparity in enforcement for marijuana possession in New York City.

“As other states across the country legalise marijuana usage, the supposed progressive beacon of New York has been far behind on this issue.

“Even as the drug remains illegal in the state, it has been very clear that there in New York, and especially in our city, there has been a massive disparity in the degree and severity of enforcement against users,” said Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

“In New York City, people of more colour are being arrested at a rate eight times higher than white individuals for marijuana-related offences. There has been a systemic targeting of low income and black and brown communities for enforcement against an action that has been tacitly permitted in wealthier and whiter populations,” added Williams, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York State.

“This disparity is blatant and inexcusable, and must be corrected. I applaud the mayor for announcing that he will work to reduce unnecessary arrests and disparity in enforcement for marijuana possession, an action that is long overdue but will have significant positive impact on the city if implemented consistently and comprehensively,” he said.

“To that end, I thank council member Stephen Levin for his leadership in passing legislation that requires reporting on marijuana arrests and criminal summonses by demographic, as well as for joining me in calling on the NYS (New York State) Legislature to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” Williams said.

In addition, he said he is joining colleagues Antonio Reynoso and Alicka Ampry-Samuel in introducing legislation aimed at reforming the penalties for marijuana offences in multiple city agencies.

“And I hope that these measures will be broadly supported and soon implemented alongside the mayor’s newly announced reforms,” he said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said he believe that low level marijuana cases should be responded to with summonses rather than arrests.