Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Gabriel Sayegh at 646-335-2264
The Drug Policy Alliance has received notice from Titan 360, North America’s largest transit advertising company, that a billboard that was set to run on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) criticizing Mayor Bloomberg for his out-of-control marijuana arrest policy will not be allowed to run. According to an email from a Titan 360 account executive, the landlord refused the ad because of “political circumstances from the Mayor’s office.”
The rejected ad states: “Nearly half of all New Yorkers have tried marijuana–including Mayor Bloomberg. We can’t arrest them all but Bloomberg is trying.” The ad then states two statistics: “Marijuana arrests last year: 50,000. Cost to taxpayers: nearly $100 million.”
“Driving along the BQE you can see ads for alcohol, strip clubs and casinos, but an ad that talks about the Mayor’s record on marijuana arrests in New York is rejected,” said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Most New Yorkers don’t know that Mayor Bloomberg’s police arrested close to 50,000 people for marijuana possession last year at a price tag of nearly 100 million dollars. This information should not be censored.”
While half of New Yorkers have tried marijuana, including the Mayor, the people getting arrested are low-income Blacks and Latinos.
Last year, 46,500 people were arrested for marijuana possession; 89 percent of those arrested were Black and Latino, even though whites have higher rates of marijuana use. Moreover, in the 12 years between 1997 and 2008, the NYPD made more than 10 times the number of marijuana possession arrests than in the previous 12 years.
Despite the mayor’s “moderate” and “independent” reputation, Bloomberg has overseen more low-level marijuana arrests than any other elected official in New York history. There have been more arrests under Bloomberg than under Mayors Dinkins, Koch and Giuliani combined.
Prior to 1997, the lowest-level marijuana arrests were one percent of all arrests in the city. Since 1997, marijuana arrests have averaged 10 percent of all arrests in the city.
New Yorkers may find it ironic that New York City leads the world in marijuana arrests given that marijuana has been decriminalized since 1977. Why are so many arrested if marijuana is decriminalized? Often it’s because, in the course of interacting with the police, individuals are asked to empty their pockets, which results in the marijuana being “open to public view” — which is, technically, a crime.
“Even a marijuana arrest can have profound consequences,” said Sayegh, “including loss of college financial aid, food stamps, public housing and, in some cases, even voting rights. For immigrants in our city, these arrests could lead to instant deportation. Money wasted and lives ruined — and for what? Bloomberg spent 100 million dollars of New Yorkers’ money last year on these arrests. Let’s remember that the next time the city lays off teachers and cuts MTA services.”
View the censored ad.