Updated: May 22
March 7th, 2020
Formal Statement from NYC NORML & Empire State NORML:
On Wednesday March 4th, allegedly, an undercover officer in plain clothes attempted to detain a citizen on the sidewalk without providing a reason for the detainment, or coming arrest
The incident then escalated unnecessarily, resulting in improper criminal charges, physical harm and trauma for an individual that was still acting within his constitutional rights. Additionally it has come to light that law enforcement may have acted in this manner after the observation of the individual (two individuals) using cannabis in public view
This sort of aggression is extreme and not commensurate with two people smoking a joint in a park or any type of cannabis use. Nearly two years ago, Mayor De Blasio announced he was taking steps to have NYPD discontinue enforcement of possession laws. In 2019, the state legislature passed a law which increased the decriminalized possession amounts under New York's penal code. Overall this incident displays a lack of foresight by our legislators, and the harm of settling for decriminalizing cannabis use vs legalizing it entirely.
NYC NORML & Empire State NORML condemns the acts of the involved officers within the Canarsie NYPD. If the incident did not involve a person of color, this sort of response by law enforcement would not have elicited the same response, as the statistics firmly support. We stand with our neighbors, friends and families of color who have been victims time and again of egregious police behavior for non-violent infractions. We encourage Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzales to investigate this incident and the officers involved.
Additionally, we call upon the legislature and governor’s office to implement true policy measures that actually result in cannabis users being treated fairly, and are afforded the same amount of rights as any other citizen. Legalization must include remedial education for law enforcement, in which NYC NORML and Empire State NORML are both willing to assist law enforcement transition - as it is in the best interest of all parties involved with this coming policy change.
NYC NORML is in agreement with our colleague Kassandra Federique at the Drug Policy Alliance who also shared a statement on this incident: “People think that legalization is about money and business - but the foremost reason we are advocating for legalization is to prevent harrowing moments like this. Legalization will not end targeted enforcement but it will remove a tool that for too long has been used to target and harass communities of color.”
We urge our elected officials to stand up for the rights of the communities they represent and to discuss the merits of adult use legalization with their communities, so we can have a safe, regulated and less racially charged environment in which to co-exist.
Board of Directors, Board of Directors,
NYC NORML Empire State NORML