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Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Arnold Ventures, speaks at the Data Collaborative for Justice’s press conference at John Jay College in New York City (February 82019)

From Data Collaborative for Justice: New Study on New York State Also Shows 18 – 20 Year Olds Had Highest Rates of Arrest in 2017

(New York, NY) – Despite dramatic declines in marijuana possession arrests from their peaks in New York City and Upstate Cities” (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers), the numbers and rates of arrests remained higher in 2017 than in 1990. Statewide, Blacks and Hispanics consistently had the highest rates of enforcement compared to Whites and these racial differences in arrest rates widened between 2002 (the first year for which race data is available statewide) and 2017; this according to the new report, Marijuana Enforcement in New York, 1990 to 2017, from the Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Read the research brief here.
Read the full report here.

Other Key Findings from the Report include: 

  • In 2017, in New York City, the vast majority of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests (~93%) were for possession of marijuana in public view or public consumption whereas for the Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State, significant percentages of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests were for possession of between 25 grams to 8 ounces (~60% and ~30% respectively)
  • Statewide, 18 – 20 year olds consistently had the highest rates of enforcement for marijuana possession statewide, mostly driven by New York City results. There was more variability by age in Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State.
  • Across all three geographic areas, Blacks and Hispanics consistently had higher rates of arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession compared to Whites, these racial differences in arrest rates widened over the study period and, in 2017, the racial differences in arrest rates were wider for the Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State compared to New York City.

The full report contains extensive analyses of misdemeanor marijuana enforcement; including by geographic area, age, race/​ethnicity and outcomes (disposition and sentence). DCJ also has released an online timeline of marijuana policy in New York and around the country. 

View the research brief, full report and related timeline here.

The marijuana report is the first to be published by the Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ), a name change from the Misdemeanor Justice Project (MJP). MJP, which was founded in 2013, has provided the public, policymakers, practitioners, advocates and academics with an impartial source of data and analyses on trends in lower-level enforcement across the State and in New York City. The change to the DCJ reflects the organization’s expanded efforts to look at criminal justice issues, beyond misdemeanor enforcement, that touch the lives of millions of people nationwide, such as pretrial detention and bail. DCJ’s new name also reflects the work the organization is doing around the country, through the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice, to build out a network of jurisdictions committed to collaborating with researchers to make data about the criminal justice system available to the public and policymakers DCJ’s ultimate goal is for every community in the nation to use data and research as the basis for a shared vision of public safety, equity and justice.

We have released reports on important aspects of the criminal justice system that were poorly understood because of a lack of data; areas like misdemeanor arrests, summonses, and jail admissions,” said Associate Professor Preeti Chauhan, Director of DCJ. Now, with additional facts in hand, we can have more productive conversations on issues, such as misdemeanor marijuana enforcement, that may have implications for public safety, police-community relations and the legitimacy of the criminal justice system.” 

This report from the Data Collaborative for Justice provides crucial, unbiased data for policymakers as they consider how to reform marijuana policy through both statewide legislation and local policies,” said Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The results point to key questions on the impact of marijuana policy on young people and people of color around the state; including public consumption of marijuana.” 

This most recent report from the Data Collaborative for Justice underscores, once again, the importance of data to drive discussions about criminal justice policy. The report’s findings about trends in marijuana arrests – specifically the enormous variations across the state, the disturbing racial disparities, and the sheer volume of arrests – come at a time when officials across the State are engaged in spirited debate on whether to legalize marijuana possession,” said Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures. Arnold Ventures (formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation) is pleased to have partnered with John Jay College to support the Misdemeanor Justice Project and to celebrate the launch of the Data Collaborative for Justice. In recognition of the significant impact this research has had on enforcement policy in New York, Arnold Ventures has awarded a grant of $1.7 million to continue this path-breaking work for the next three years.” 

At a time when marijuana policy is the subject of intense debate, it is essential that policymakers consider this report, which presents a comprehensive picture of how marijuana possession has been enforced around the state for the previous three decades. Armed with this data, policymakers are better equipped to address complex questions around the impacts of reduced enforcement, including racial differences in arrests, geographic variation in enforcement, and consumption by young people and in public, ” said Erica Bond, Chief Policy Strategist for DCJ. This report will also provide a solid empirical foundation for tracking and monitoring the impacts of future law and policy changes.”