NYC Marijuana Arrests Drop Only 13% Since Cops Told To Chill


New York Magazine
The Big Apple is STILL the King of the World for marijuana arrests — even after a 13 percent drop.

​Since 1977, possession cases for small amounts of marijuana have been violations in New York — non-arrestable offenses — unless the pot is burning or in plain public view. But despite the existing law, in 2010 one out of every seven arrests in New York City was for marijuana possession “in public view” — even though the vast majority of those arrested did not possess marijuana in public view, as widely reported in The New York Times, WNYC, the Daily News and many other outlets.

These arrests are largely the result of the NYPD stopping and frisking more than half a million mostly young black and Latino men and falsely charging them for marijuana possession “in public view.”

In addition to conducting illegal searches, the police often tell individuals to empty their pockets, and then charge them with possession of marijuana “in public view” — a misdemeanor.

​A campaign led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, and VOCAL pounded away at Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD for wasting taxpayer dollars and conducting racially biased policing policies, performing illegal searches, and falsely charging tens of thousands of New Yorkers for a misdemeanor crime instead of the non-criminal offense, a violation.
In September, responding to the campaign, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order commanding officers to follow existing New York state law. (Let us take a minute to reflect on how deeply fucked things are when police officers have to have an order from the Commissioner to “follow the law.” Thank you.)
Kelly’s order directed officers to stop falsely charging people for possessing marijuana in public view if individuals removed cannabis from their pocket under the order of a police officer.

Carl Stubbs
Carl Stubbs, VOCAL-NY: “Commissioner Kelly is all talk and no walk when it comes to following the law around marijuana possession in New York City”

​While a step in the right direction, the operations order did not address the illegal searches conducted regularly by the NYPD, nor did it address the racial bias implicit in these arrests.
Research by Queens College professor Dr. Harry Levine clearly demonstrates that the vast majority of the marijuana arrests in New York City — up to 75 percent in some precincts — are the results of illegal searches and false charges.
New arrest figures just released show that since the operations order issued by Commissioner Kelly, arrests for low-level marijuana possession have fallen by only 13 percent in New York City since the same period last year — a disappointing drop, considering the scale of NYPD’s criminal enforcement.
“Regardless of what the numbers show, the impact is still tremendously felt by the communities that are illegally and disproportionately arrested for something that has been decriminalized for over 30 years,” said Chino Hardin with the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives and an expert trainer for Know Your Rights workshops.
“The crusade continues regardless of the 13 percent drop,” Hardin said. “When we see the numbers decrease by 80 percent, then we will know that the NYPD is meaningfully following and upholding the law.”

Drug Policy Alliance
gabriel sayegh, DPA: “Unfortunately, these figures are cause for outrage, not celebration”

​”Commissioner Kelly is all talk and no walk when it comes to following the law around marijuana possession in New York City,” said Carl Stubbs, an HIV-positive member of VOCAL-NY from South Jamaica, Queens who has been illegally arrested for marijuana possession.
“Too many people in neighborhoods like mine have been treated like criminals when the real lawbreakers have been police illegally searching people and then charging them with having marijuana in plain sight,” Stubbs said. “Either Commissioner Kelly can’t control the police force or he’s not taking tens of thousands of improper arrests seriously.”
“Unfortunately, these figures are cause for outrage, not celebration,” said gabriel sayegh, state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “In this economy, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD are wasting millions of tax dollars by using illegal searches and false charges to sweep tens of thousands of black and Latino youth into the criminal justice system.
“Even with this drop, more people have still be arrested for small amounts of marijuana in 2011 than in the same period in 2010,” sayegh said. “With these new numbers, NYC goes from marijuana arrest capital of the world to the marijuana arrest capital of the world.”