New York City Spends $75 Million A Year On Marijuana Arrests


Graphic: Law Firm Blog

​In 2010, New York City spent $75 million arresting 50,383 people for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

That’s just one of the startling facts in a new report released Tuesday which documents the crushing costs of misguided marijuana enforcement in the city. Every day, about 140 people are arrested for marijuana offenses in New York City, making it the leading cause of arrest.
A full 87 percent of those arrested are black or Latino, a particularly outrageous number since people of color do not use marijuana at higher rates than the rest of the population.
“Incredibly, the NYPD has quietly made marijuana infractions their top law enforcement priority without even a pretense of public input or debate,” said Neill Franklin, a retired narcotics officer who heads Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Photo: LEAP
Executive Director Neill Franklin, LEAP: “This flagrant abuse of state power is a tightly held secret”

​Although New York decriminalized possession of under 25 grams of marijuana, possession that is “open to public view” remains a crime. Police officers have learned to ask vulnerable people they believe to be in possession of marijuana to empty their pockets so the officers can then make an arrest.
The “suspects” do not have to be using, buying, or selling marijuana, nor do they have to be acting out in any way at all. They simply have to be “suspects.”
Each arrest costs at least $1,000 to $2,000, and that’s a conservative estimate. In 2010 the NYPD made nearly 1,000 marijuana possession arrests a week. The 50,383 people arrested for cannabis in 2010 were all fingerprinted, photographed, and most spent 24 hours or more in jail. In all cases, marijuana possession was the highest charge or the only charge.
“This flagrant abuse of state power is a tightly held secret,” Franklin said. “Please help us expose it. Help us send a message to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that using already strained police and judicial resources in this way is not acceptable and that the overwhelming racial disparity of these arrests is appalling.”
If you want to stand with LEAP in supporting a more rational plan for drug policy in New York City, you can sign the petition by clicking here.
To read the entire report, “$75 Million A Year – The Cost of New York City’s Marijuana Arrests,” click here [PDF]. The report reveals the police, judicial, and human costs of New York City’s quixotic marijuana arrest crusade.