As New York State’s lawmakers contemplate making recreational marijuana legal, new Federal Bureau of Investigations data shows nearly 5% of all arrests in New York are for possession of marijuana.
As is the case across the country, there’s wide disparity among New York’s counties when it comes to marijuana possession arrests, reflecting differing levels of enforcement. Medical use has been legal in the state since 2014.
Here are the top five counties for marijuana possession arrests in New York:
This 1,808 square-mile county in north-central New York tops the state’s marijuana arrest list. Nearly half — 44% — of all arrests in the county in 2016 were for possession of the drug. Hamilton’s numbers are the second-highest in the nation, coming behind only Dooley County, Georgia, where 55% of all arrests were for marijuana possession.
In this 63,000-resident county in the Hudson Valley, marijuana possession arrests accounted for about 23% of all arrests in 2016. Of 1,729 total arrests that year, 378 were for possessing cannabis.
In this rural Capital District county bordering Vermont — where recreational marijuana became legal last summer — nearly 18% of arrests in 2016 were for possession.
In this Finger Lakes county, which comprises 640 square miles of land and includes the campus of the State University College at Geneseo, about 15% of arrests were for cannabis possession. Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty has been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, citing significant concerns with public safety.ADVERTISING
“We are in opposition of marijuana,” Dougherty said on behalf of the state Sheriffs and Police Chief’s associations during a press event in February. “We understand that drugs exist and when controlled by a doctor or in a controlled environment, they are useful, but making a recreational drug legal is dangerous for highway safety — and that is the message today.”
This peripheral Capital District county has a population of about 32,750 people. In 2016, about 15% of 775 arrests made there were for marijuana possession.
In NYC, Jumaane Williams the New York City Public Advocate has been pushing for legalization in the city and state, saying that the State “should rapidly move towards the full legalization of marijuana that has been massively successful in other states, expunge the State criminal records of past users, and create a pathway for all New Yorkers to benefit economically from this industry, not just a select few chosen by the Governor.”
Under his guidance, NYC has passed a bill banning most companies from testing job applicants for marijuana.
“Testing isn’t a deterrent to using marijuana, it’s an impediment to opportunity that dates back to the Reagan era — a war on drugs measure that’s now a war on workers,” Williams said in a press release. “Prospective employers don’t test for alcohol so marijuana should be no different.”