Murders are up in New York. Why? According to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, it's because of drug dealers getting violent over "marijuana, a seemingly innocent drug that is being legalized around the country." That's all the more reason to legalize it here in New York, too.
Bratton's remarks—delivered at a news conference in response to a 2015 homicide rate that is 20% higher than that of the same period last year—are being widely reported as a refutation of the idea that that this "seemingly innocent" drug is as innocent as it seems. Sixty percent of this year's drug-related killings involved weed, according to the commissioner.
But let's look at what Bratton and other NYPD brass actually said.
"The seemingly innocent drug that's been legalized around the country," he said. "In this city, people are killing each other over marijuana more so than anything that we had to deal with an 80s and 90s with heroin and cocaine."
"It is ironic that in a city which is a transfer point for huge amounts of drugs . . . heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens, that one drug [that] is actually the causal factor in so much of our shootings and murder is marijuana," Bratton said. "We just see marijuana everywhere when we make these arrests, and get the guns off the street."
"These are all ripoffs," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. "These are not turf battles. These are ripoffs of marijuana dealers, robberies...We lost a police officer, detective Pete Figowski, a couple years ago. He was responding to a marijuana ripoff."
Unless you subscribe to the Reefer Madness-era idea that pot turns otherwise peaceful people into raging, violent animals, Bratton's and Boyce's remarks aren't indictments of weed itself; they're indictments of weed prohibition. These aren't stories of overdoses or men driven driven to madness by a bong rip; they're the direct consequences of a culture that sends people to jail for pot. Whether he meant to or not, the commissioner of the NYPD just made a pretty compelling case for ending prohibition.
If we want to end weed-related violence in New York, we have a really simple means of doing so: legalizing it. How many of the city's beer distributors have been murdered this year?