In the summer of 2013, marijuana was decriminalized throughout the state of New York, making possession of less than 2 ounces punishable only by a fine of up to $100. This was enacted after years of harsh criminalization of the drug throughout the state.
An ACLU report earlier in the year had found that there were “more marijuana possession arrests in NY than in any other state,” an arrest record that was also unfairly skewed towards targeting minorities.
In 2011, the marijuana laws throughout the state of New York were not quite so lenient and one man, former New York City public school art teacher Alberto Willmore, became a face behind the aforementioned startling statistics.
In a new video posted by Buzzfeed, Willmore documents his story. The man was smoking a cigarette off school property two years ago when a police officer approached him and accused him of smoking marijuana. Although Willmore had flicked his cigarette into the street and therefore the officer had no proof of his marijuana use, his arrest led to his subsequent suspension and ultimate dismissal from the school. Because Willmore was employed by a state agency and faced an arrest due to drug use, he is now barred from participating in New York’s Department of Education.
The video documents Willmore’s former students and neighbors, who swear by his dedication to his art as well as his role as an educator. The video also explains the process involved with New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk laws, which allow officers to search individuals which the police department deems suspicious, even if they have no criminal record or any reason to suspect that they may be participating in criminal activity. Critics of stop-and-frisk claim that it disproportionately targets minority individuals.
According to the Huffington Post, “more people are arrested for possession than any other crime” in New York City, and “85 percent of those arrested are black or latino.” Much of this criminalization has to do with the Bloomberg administration’s stronghold over the city throughout the past several years, a position of governmental control that is scheduled to switch over to the anti-stop and frisk mayor-elect Bill de Blasio at the beginning of next year. De Blasio is expected to be a much more liberal leader than Bloomberg, although it has yet to be determined how his policies regarding marijuana use are to play out.