Trends in Marijuana Enforcement in New York State, 1990-2017

This report examines trends in arrests for marijuana enforcement, with a focus on marijuana possession, in New York State from 1990 to 2017. Specifically, it presents trends in all misdemeanor marijuana arrests by penal law code, arrest rates for misdemeanor marijuana possession by demographics, and outcomes of disposition and sentence for marijuana possession arrests. These trends are also examined across three geographic areas: New York City, Upstate Cities (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers), and the Rest of the State. This report examines trends.

Key Findings:

  • The number and rate of arrests for marijuana possession were higher in 2017 than in 1990 for the State as a whole and for New York City, Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State but the number and rate of arrests were lower in 2017 than the peaks in New York City and Upstate Cities.
  • In 2017, the vast majority of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests in New York City were for possession of marijuana in public view or public consumption. In 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.
  • 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 group in New York City, but 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.

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