Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against the City of New York for the NYPD’s Racist Use of Marijuana Laws

In 2019, the legislature removed the power of the NYPD to arrest New Yorkers for modest amounts of marijuana. Undeterred, the NYPD illegally arrested thousands and thousands of New Yorkers, mostly people of color. This lawsuit seeks to correct that injustice.


“It’s hard to imagine an arrest procedure more subject to abuse by the NYPD than this one. For many, many months the NYPD intentionally and willfully ignored the will of the people of the State of New York as embodied in this New York state law. This abuse should not be allowed to ever happen again and those who were adversely affected by the policy and practice should get just compensation for their injuries,” said Jonathan C. Moore, partner at Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP, the firm who represented Eric Garner, members of the Central Park 5, and co-counseled Floyd, the stop-and-frisk litigation. Mr. Moore was also lead counsel on the 2004 Republican National Convention class action, MacNamara, et al., v. City of New York, et al..


“The racist core of the NYPD is laid bare in how they have policed marijuana.” David B. Rankin, Partner at Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP.

“Marijuana arrests have never been about marijuana. They are a cheap excuse to stop, handcuff, question, and abuse people of color,” said Rob Rickner, owner of Rickner PLLC.

“The legislature was very clear when it passed decriminalization laws in 2019,” said Stephanie Panousieris, associate at Rickner PLLC. “The people of New York are not interested in upholding a decades-old drug war intended to surveil and control communities of color.”

The Complaint in Welch, et al. v. City of New York, et al. is available here:

Welch et al
. vl City of New York - Compl
Download VL CITY OF NEW YORK - COMPL • 311KB

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