As the debate around marijuana legalization has picked up steam in Albany, Long Island has seen a slate of municipal hearings and town meetings on considering the implications of legalization local communities.
The report Marijuana Enforcement on Long Island shows that the scope and scale of status quo marijuana enforcement is far more extensive than most Long Islanders and elected officials realize — and has a dramatic impact on the community, especially those that are the most vulnerable to law enforcement criminalization.
Analysis of state arrest data that shows that, outside of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties have the highest arrest rates for low-level marijuana offenses in the state. There have been over 19,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Long Island from 2010 to 2017, with arrests increasing every year. State data also reveals that people of color are arrested and prosecuted at a significantly rate higher than white people on Long Island — despite studies showing similar rates of use.
In Suffolk County, where Black and Latino people are 29 percent of the total population, they accounted for 66 percent of marijuana arrests in 2017. White people comprise 68 percent of the population, but only 32 percent of marijuana arrests.
In Nassau County, Black and Latino people comprised 60 percent of those arrested in 2017, despite being 30 percent of the population, while White people are only 30 percent of those arrested, but 60 percent of the population.