New York City Pot Arrests Soar To Near-Record In 2009


Photo: City Rag
New York City leads the world in pot arrests — and wastes up to $90 million a year keeping it that way

​New York Police Department officers made more than 46,000 arrests in 2009 for marijuana possession in public, second highest in the Big Apple’s history, according to statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

The annual arrest total is up more than 4,600 percent from 1990, when the NYPD reported fewer than a thousand pot arrests, reports the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

The 46,400 lowest level marijuana possession arrests made by New York City police involve cases where marijuana was either used or possessed in public. Of those arrested, 54 percent were African American, 33 percent were Hispanic, and only 10 percent were Caucasian.
African Americans and Hispanics, while together comprising 87 percent of marijuana arrests, make up only about half of the city’s population.

Graphic: New York Magazine
The Big Apple is King of the World for marijuana arrests

​”Police arrested blacks for pot possession at seven times the rate of whites, and Latinos at four times the rate of whites,” said Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, who analyzed the data.
Levine further noted that 90 percent of those arrested were male, and most offenders were under 26 years old. In all of the arrests, marijuana possession was either the most serious reported charge or the only one.
Although simple marijuana possession is only a violation and not a crime in New York State, if the marijuana is “open to public view” it can be charged as a misdemeanor.
NYPD officers get around this in their supposedly civilized city by outright lying and by bending the rules. A typical ruse is for police to stop someone near a suspected marijuana-sales site and tell them something like “We saw you coming out of the weed spot. If you have anything on you that you’re not supposed to have, give it to me and all I’ll give you is a ticket.”
If the suspect falls for the ruse and hands over his marijuana, he is then arrested for “displaying” it in “public view.”
According to a 2008 study by Harry Levine and Deborah Small and released by the New York Civil Liberties Union, police have made about 400,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests over the past decade.
“We are confident in estimating that about two-thirds to three-quarters of the people arrested were not smoking marijuana,” the study said. “Usually they were doing their utmost to keep their marijuana concealed, generally deep inside their clothing.”
“Every year since 1997, police in New York City have been intimidating and tricking tens of thousands of young people to take out their marijuana and to hand it over,” Levine said. “When the young people do so they are handcuffed, arrested and usually spend 24 hours in the city’s jails.”
The NYCLU study estimated that marijuana arrests in New York City cost taxpayers between $50 million and $90 million ever year. Every time another person is busted for pot, it costs taxpayers $1,500 to $2,500 per arrest, according to the study.