by TG Branfalt
Police data from Albany, New York shows that 97 percent of cannabis arrests and tickets targeted Black people — mostly young men — despite Black people representing just under 30 percent of the city’s population.
From July 9, 2019 to July 9, 2020 Albany, New York police made arrests or issued tickets for cannabis crimes 134 times and just four of those enforcement actions were against a white person, the Times-Union reports.
According to the data outlined by the newspaper, 97 percent of the time those arrested or ticketed were Black — Black people, however, represent just under 30 percent of Albany’s population, according to recent census data.
The majority of the cannabis-related actions by police in the city – 76 of the 134 – were for unlawful possession, a violation, while 25 arrests were for possession of more than 8 ounces, a felony in the state.
Cannabis possession up to about 2 ounces (57 grams) is a simple violation in New York since Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the decriminalization expansion last year after lawmakers failed to pass legalization legislation.
Of the 134 arrests and citations, 177 were related to crimes in progress, but the police data analyzed by the Times-Union did not indicate which crimes were being investigated or committed.
Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins, who is Black, said the felony-level arrests were related to “major” quality-of-life issues, violent crime, drug use and sales. He added it is “always concerning when you see that all of the arrests were Black males.”
“It’s not surprising to me that when we’re concentrating on addressing violent crime … we’re going to pull in some marijuana-related issues. … We’re not stopping young men in the community and writing them minor possession of marijuana tickets, it’s just not happening. I’m not seeing that these young men are being targeted but it’s concerning to me that that they are the ones who are impacted by this.” – Hawkins to the Times-Union
Mayor Kathy Sheehan (D) said city officials would examine the arrests as part of a state-mandated reform of the Albany Police Department. That review will be headed by the Albany Police Reform Collaborative and will analyze data associated with arrests by race, gender, and other demographics.