Even though surveys show they are part of the demographic group that makes the heaviest use of pot, white people in New York are the least likely to be arrested for it.
Last year, black New Yorkers were seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession and no more serious crime. Latinos were four times more likely. [NYT]
You can't explain away a gaping disparity like that. This is not just a matter of cultural differences in marijuana using behavior. White people smoke herb in the streets of New York, too. There is no bigger factor at play here than the discretionary choices police make about who to approach and investigate. It really is that simple and that unfair.
But just because it's racist doesn’t mean it's bad, says the city:
Mr. Bloomberg’s chief criminal justice aide, John Feinblatt, declined to discuss the city’s approach to marijuana arrests, or the findings of the study. But through a spokesman, he issued a statement maintaining the pot arrests have helped drive down violent crime.
Even if I believed that stopping a million people a year in the streets of New York is necessary to drive down violent crime, that still doesn’t mean you have to arrest them when marijuana is discovered. None of this even begins to make any sense, and it comes as no surprise that city officials are loathe to attempt an explanation for it.
If you want to reduce violent crime, try legalizing marijuana so there's one less thing to fight over.