Research Brief: Marijuana Enforcement in New York State, 1990-2017

This research brief includes key highlights from the full report from the DCJ on trends in misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York State. Trends in overall misdemeanor marijuana enforcement, marijuana possession enforcement by age and race/ethnicity, as well as enforcement outcomes are highlighted. It also includes an overview of how marijuana policy has evolved at the City and State levels.

Key Findings:

  • The number and rate of arrests for marijuana possession were higher in 2017 than in 1990 for New York State as a whole and for New York City, Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State.
  • In New York City in 2017, the vast majority of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests (93%) were for possession of marijuana in public view or public consumption. For Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State, significant proportions of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests were for possession of between 25 grams to 8 ounces (60% and 30% respectively).
  • At the state level, 18-20-year-olds consistently had the highest rates of arrest for marijuana possession, mostly driven by the higher rates of arrest for this age group in New York City.
  • Across all three geographic areas, Blacks and Hispanics consistently had higher rates of arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession compared to Whites — these racial differences widened over the study period and in 2017, the racial differences in arrest rates were wider for Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State compared to New York City.

Related Press and Media

About 160,000 People in New York to See Their Marijuana Convictions Disappear (New York Times)
Report shows historical impact of misdemeanor marijuana arrests (Albany Times Union)
WHEC Rochester reports on our Trends in Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests report