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This Is What White Weed Privilege Looks Like




When a friend sent me the photo of Malcolm Abbott, rapper, and son of accused college admissions cheats, earlier this morning, I assumed it was a bit from The Onion.


“Son defends parents caught in college admissions scandal while smoking blunt,” read the headline attached to a photo too well staged to be real. Check it out for yourself:



But no. It’s real. It’s in the New York Post:

Maybe this is why Gregory and Marcia Abbott allegedly bought their daughter’s way into college. Their ‘rapper’ son, Malcolm, popped out of the family’s Fifth Avenue building to smoke a giant blunt—while defending his parents and bragging about his latest CD.

‘They’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion,’ said Malcolm Abbott outside the home that overlooks the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ‘I believe everyone has a right to go to college, man.’

In between drags, Malcolm, whose father is the founder of food and beverage distributor International Dispensing Corp., admitted, ‘I didn’t go to college.’

Stroll Down Fifth Avenue, Smoking a Blunt

So much to unpack. Where to begin.

Since this is Leafly, we’ll focus on the fact that Malcolm Abbott felt perfectly at ease smoking a blunt on Fifth Avenue, across the street from the Met, as a photographer snapped away.

First: Let’s be clear. It should be every adult New Yorker’s right to enjoy cannabis legally. State legislators are trying to make that happen right now in Albany.

Second: You want to know what white weed privilege looks like? It looks like Malcolm Abbott, who knows he can blaze a fatty on Fifth Avenue and fear no arrest. Meanwhile, every person of color in New York city who hazards the same action faces a likelihood of arrest 10 times greater than Malcolm Abbott. Try getting into college as a young African-American man with that on your record.

New York City Improves, But…

No doubt,  things overall are improving in New York City. Mayor Bill DiBlasio and the NYPD installed a new policy last year that resulted in a 97% drop in cannabis possession arrests. Prior to that, police regularly arrested people caught consuming cannabis in public—and used it as a pretext to stop-and-frisk whoever they wanted (but mostly non-white people). But as we’ve seen in other cities, total arrests drop but the racial disparities in those arrests tend to remain.

As Sara Brittany Somerset reported for Leafly last year, consumption rates for people of all races in New York are about the same. But 85% of the people arrested for cannabis offenses were people of color, who are ten times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

This is not a perception issue. This is a data-proven issue. Thirty percent of New York City residents are white. White people represented only 9% of cannabis arrests in 2017. Here’s how Politico charted the problem last year:


The college admissions scandal is all about wealthy white people using their money and institutional privilege to game the system. Malcolm Abbott did us all a favor by demonstrating just how deep that privilege runs.

Bruce Barcott
Bruce is Leafly’s deputy editor. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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