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Sean Gardiner

Articles, Investigations and Blogs

The 'war on drugs' continues as ever, though you might not hear much about it anymore. The new issue of CLI looks at its advances and setbacks -- and who's caught in the conflict today.

Excerpt from the latest issue of City Limits Investigates: Marijuana has gotten cheaper in New York in the past decade with an estimated 416,000 city residents smoking it.

Just because the drug trade and the law enforcement crusade against it aren't as obvious as they were in the past doesn't mean drugs and the war against them have disappeared from New York.

The heroin story of the 1990s was ignored, by and large, until it became so popular that some among the white celebrity set developed addictions that subsequently received a good deal of publicity.

Sometime in 1975, Colombian drug dealers, who were already well established in the world's marijuana market with their high-grade Colombian Gold, wrested control of the cocaine importation business from Cuban crime organizations operating in Florida and New York.

On Feb. 26, 1988, members of a drug gang murdered a 22-year-old rookie police of?cer named Edward Byrne, who was sitting guard in a patrol car outside the home of a witness who had been threatened by the dealers' boys. After that, things were different.

Despite the extraordinarily low crime levels and the near total absence of drugs from the city's public discourse these days, nearly a quarter of a million people in New York City have been arrested for drugs over the past two years.

City Limits estimates that the yearly cost to government for investigation, contraband seizures, arrests, judicial processing, incarceration, parole hearings and probation services for all those arrested in drug cases in New York City could run somewhere between $825 million and $1.7 billion.

Like riding mowers or line dancing, meth—whether called "ice," "tina," "crank" or any of its dozen other names—has never really caught on in New York City.

In the past, prosecutors alone got to choose which defendants would be eligible to participate in drug court. Now judges have that power in a wide swath of cases.

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