New York, NY — Over the past several years, the city of New York has been loosening their grip on the war on cannabis. In 2014, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch famously grabbed a bad of oregano and gave a fear mongering speech about what was going to happen after New York stopped arresting people for possessing less than 25 grams of pot.
“We do not want police officers left holding the bag if crime rises because of poor policy,” Lynch said. “Writing a summons to someone who does not respect the law can result in a volatile situation. Police officers always have to be on guard for violent reaction and resistance which can put them in danger of physical harm and potential disciplinary charges.”
— Pervaiz Shallwani (@Pervaizistan) November 10, 2014
However, like most police fear mongering, these claims turned out to be completely unsubstantiated.
New York residents saw a 40 percent reduction in the amount of arrests for marijuana, and amazingly enough, the city did not descend into total chaos. Crime actually went down.
This reaction to the crumbling war on drugs by cops has been going on for quite some time and predictably, they are at it once more. As TFTP reported in 2018, after multiple district attorneys in the state announced that they will refuse to prosecute people who are arrested for possessing marijuana, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking marijuana in public.
Though the arrests stopped, cops still enthusiastically persecuted people over the smell of marijuana and used it as a reason to harass, detain, beat, and cage thousands of innocent people based solely on the smell of a plant.
In April, however, all that changed when cops were told the smell of marijuana was no longer a reason to harass people.
Specific guidance in the NYPD’s order told cops that people 21 and older can legally smoke weed “almost anywhere that cigarette smoking is allowed including on sidewalks, on front stoops and other public places.”
Just like Lynch took to his soapbox in 2014 to fear monger about loosening marijuana laws, cops are at it once more. This time, however, they are claiming that because they can no longer kidnap, cage and kill people over the smell of weed, that gun violence is spiking.
“These laws are handcuffing cops and creating a Wild West environment where everyone carries a gun and settles their problems on the spot with a shootout,” a law enforcement source reportedly told the NY Post.
The source allegedly gave multiple examples to the Post, citing the problem with lax weed laws. According to the Post:
Last year, 33 percent of all gun-possession arrests resulted from vehicle stops, with a majority of those also involving weed, a source familiar with the matter said.
Before the new law went into effect, that number rose to 45 percent this year, the source said.
NYPD statistics show that there were a total of 1,409 gun arrests — or an average of 108 a week — from Jan. 4 through April 4.
But during the five weeks that ended May 9, most of which were covered by the new pot law, there were just 209 gun busts — cutting the average by more than half to just 53 a week.
At the same time, shootings during April skyrocketed 166 percent — to 149 from 56 during the same month in 2020, according to NYPD CompStat data released last week.
“There are way too many guns on the streets, but we need help from our elected officials to take guns off the streets — not keep them out there,” the source said.
While it is entirely true that New York is experiencing a surge in gun violence, attributing the surge to weed laws is inaccurate at best and completely deceptive at worst. Yes, guns are recovered when cops harass people over the smell of weed, but there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Correlation does not equal causation.
Gun violence was on the rise well before cops were told to stop harassing people over the smell of weed. In November 2020, the city had seen a 112% increase in shootings and cops could harass anyone they wanted over the smell of weed. This increase in shootings happened to coincide with an increase in gun arrests as well completely countering the narrative that gun arrests decrease shootings.
If these shootings could be attributed to cops not being able to harass people over the smell of marijuana, why then are we seeing similar increases across the entire country?
Murders across the United States rose an estimated 25% in 2020, according to preliminary data from the FBI, the largest increase since modern crime statistics have been compiled. Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles all had higher murder rates in 2020.
There is absolutely no data to back up the claim that arresting, harassing, or detaining people over the smell of marijuana leads to a decrease in gun violence. But there is evidence to the contrary.
As TFTP has reported, even when cops simply refused to make arrests and write tickets New York did not descend into chaos.
In September 2019, the NYPD threw a temper tantrum after Police Commissioner James O’Neill fired the killer cop who choked the life out of Eric Garner on video in 2014. The temper tantrum resulted in a plunge in arrests, but it did not lead to a spike in crime or violence — illustrating how most of the “policing” done in the US, is little more than revenue generation.
We saw a similar reaction in December 2014 when the NYPD threw their first temper tantrum over the reaction to Eric Garner’s death and essentially stopped doing their jobs.
During the work stoppage, the city set a record for the lowest number of murders in the history of the NYPD.
This claim that cops have to arrest people for the smell of marijuana or chaos will ensue is little more than deceptive fear mongering and another tantrum. Arresting people for the smell of weed is easy and cops want easy work. They want to pick the low hanging fruit. It also justifies their existence and allows them to escape accountability for violating the rights of citizens because “weed smell.”
The Post’s source stopped short of saying this directly but hinted at this very notion by associating it with police accountability.
“Qualified immunity is talked about extensively,” the cop said.
“Cops are worried. If they take any kind of police action, are they going too far and what, if any, are the ramifications?”
This is the way it should be. Cops should always be thinking about their jobs and the ramifications of their actions. The fact that they are worried about being held accountable for their actions now simply shows us that they clearly never had to worry about it before. Who in their right mind thinks this is a bad thing?
Imagine if doctors, airline pilots, and surgeons had this point of view.
A Brooklyn cop also said the specter of getting sued “is in the back of cops’ minds when they make a car stop or confront someone.”
You absolutely should be thinking about being sued if you violate someone’s rights. Removing liability is what has led to the United States having the deadliest police force in the world. Something had to be done.
The NYPD can fear monger and defer responsibility all they want but it doesn’t change the facts. Those who claim that an increase in freedom (lax weed laws) leads to more violence are little more than tyrants who hate freedom to begin with. And, they have no business holding a job where they claim to protect that freedom.