Black Residents Subject to 97% of Albany Marijuana Arrests, Citations

According to a Times Union review of Albany police data from July 2019 to July 2020, 97% of the time, those arrested or ticketed for marijuana-related offenses were Black. Only four white people were charged with marijuana offenses during the time period. What could be behind this alarming statistic? Attorney Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on PYX106 examining the issue.

Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

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Man: It’s Quinn and Cantera on PYX106.

Interviewer 1: It’s 1800-law-1010, Paul Harding for Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, here to talk about, boy, a number that just blows me away.

Interviewer 2: In Albany, marijuana arrests fall almost entirely on black residents, and I think the number was 97%. Is that… Paul, is there targeting going on?

Paul: Well, the police chief says, “Absolutely not.” Chief Hawkins said that, you know, most of these arrests come about with violent crime and quality of life arrests. And so they sort of tack on these marijuana crimes, and sort of just putting it out there that that’s happening in the black community more than the white community. But to your point, the staggering number, 97% in the black community and there are only 4 total marijuana related tickets or citations to folks who are white.

Interviewer 2: So it’s not like… The marijuana arrest numbers are actually an after the fact kind of thing, after an initial violation.

Paul: Right. You know, he said that, “We’re not walking around Albany and arresting,” and he said, “young men, you know, and issuing marijuana tickets. You know, we’re… It’s related to calls for crimes in progress.” Like 117 of the 134 were related to calls for crimes in progress. Sort of putting it out there that…

Interviewer 1: I mean, there are more crimes in…

Paul: This is what we’re trying to do, but we still don’t like it. He wants to take a look at this and see how it’s happening.

Interviewer 1: Do you know what would happen if we legalized marijuana on a federal level to people of color in this country, as far as jail and the system? Just, you know, getting a 17 year old kid into the system with a little bag of weed? You know, something like that? I mean, they can’t get out of it. You go to Cleveland or a city like, you know, Chicago, you cannot get out of that system.

Interviewer 2: I mean, is the story in the “Times Union” a little misleading?

Paul: Well, I think that maybe the headline is. The statistics are correct, but maybe… and they seem to have told the whole story as you read the article a little further down. You know, and they get… but still.

Interviewer 2: That’s why we have you on Paul, you read the whole thing. You’re the best.

Interviewer 1: Look, more crime in certain communities that have more people of color, you’re gonna have more people of color being closer to police who may look for pot, may see pot, may come across pot, may… weed, whatever you wanna call it. And that’s probably a huge factor. That’s my point of legalization.

Paul: Yeah, I think we’re moving in that direction. I mean, you just can kind of feel it. I think we’ve been sort of stymied by COVID-19 and some of the other things that just sort of put everything on hold. But, yeah, I think if you take a picture in 5 years out there, I really think that marijuana is just gonna be in all 50 states and it’s just not gonna be prosecuting anything.

Interviewer 2: What is… by the way, Paul, what is the ticket for marijuana? Is it 130 bucks or something? How’s that work?

Paul: It’s a 50 dollar fine, yeah.

Interviewer 2: That’s it?

Paul: So you know… It is, but the question comes up, you know, are they gonna use that in terms of, you know, holding someone who is maybe homeless and doesn’t have 50 dollars, doesn’t have any dollars, and could that turn into something. Where they get a violation, show up to court next week, you don’t go to court, now there’s an arrest warrant, and so that’s the general theme, is that the folks who just don’t have anything can still get wrapped up in the system where, yeah, 50 bucks, most people could come up with it.

Interviewer 1: Maybe you catch, you know, an officer who doesn’t like you for whatever reason, and…

Interviewer 2: Then you’re caught up and you’re clogging the system. Hey, well, we appreciate you weighing in on this one Paul, putting it in perspective.

Interviewer 1: Thanks, buddy, appreciate it.

Paul: Absolutely. Talk soon guys.

Interviewer 1: All right. Paul Harding for Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, 1800-law-1010,