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New York City: Still The Marijuana Arrest Capital Of The World

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 2, 2012

    Low level marijuana arrests in New York City rose for the seventh straight year in 2011 to 50,680. The arrest total is the highest total on record since former pot smoker Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and it is the second highest total of pot arrests ever recorded in the history of the city (just 587 arrests behind the record holding year 2000, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani oversaw some 51,267 people arrested for marijuana violations).

    Shockingly, the near-record high arrest total comes just months after New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called on officers to cease making marijuana misdemeanor arrests. Apparently, NYPD officers aren’t very good at listening to their commanding officer.

    Of course, what is most troubling about these arrest figures is that under state law they largely shouldn’t be occurring at all. Since 1977, New York State law has categorized the possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less as a violation, not a misdemeanor crime. So then how are NYPD making so many misdemeanor pot arrests? By violating the spirit of the law, if not the law itself.

    Rather than ticketing low level marijuana offenders, City police for over a decade have been taking advantage of a separate statute, NY State Penal Law 221.10, which makes it a criminal misdemeanor to possess pot if it is ‘open to public view.’ According to an investigation last year by New York City public radio station WNYC, it was determined that City cops routinely conduct warrantless ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches of civilians, find marijuana hidden on their persons, and then falsely charge them with possessing pot ‘open to public view.’

    And what has been the result of these illegal ‘stop and frisks?’ A press advisory issued yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance lists the grim details.

    – The NYPD has made more than 100,000 marijuana possession arrests for the last two years; nearly 150,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last three years; and more than 227,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last five years.

    — New York City spent at least $150 million in the last two years and has spent at least $340 million in the last five years making marijuana possession arrests.

    — In the last decade since Michael Bloomberg became mayor, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost to taxpayers of $600 million dollars.

    — Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos.

    — In the last five years, the NYPD under Bloomberg has made more marijuana arrests (2007 to 2011 = 227,093) than in the 24 years from 1978 through 2001 under Mayor Giuliani, Mayor Dinkins, and Mayor Koch combined (1978 to 2001 = 226,861).

    Commissioner Kelly’s 2011 memorandum explicitly directed officers to stop charging defendants with criminal misdemeanors in instances where the contraband ‘was disclosed to public view at an officer’s direction.’ Nevertheless, the record number of low level pot arrests appears to be continuing unabated. Most likely, it will take an act of law to stop this practice.

    Fortunately, bipartisan legislation is pending in both the New York State Assembly and Senate to stop this disgusting, ongoing practice. Assembly Bill 7620 and Senate Bill 5187 reduce marijuana penalties involving cases where where marijuana was either consumed or allegedly possessed in public from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation. Passage of SB 5187 and AB 7620 will save taxpayer dollars, protect New York City’s citizens against illegal searches, and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in arrests by clarifying the law and standardizing penalties for marijuana possession offenses.

    If you reside in New York and want to end the City’s dubious distinction of being the ‘marijuana arrest capital of the world,’ then please contact your state elected officials today and urge them to support SB 5187 and AB 7620. You can do so via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    54 Responses to “New York City: Still The Marijuana Arrest Capital Of The World”

    1. JAY says:

      Lets see,chase a mugger down or pop a pot smoker?

    2. Anonymous says:

      am sure the govt knows that cannabis is not as harmful as they point out to be there just to scared to admit they were wrong and the people…honestly we will all forgive them if they just legalize it but if they keep making us wait for them to even talk about Marijuana reform then idk what will happen(i got lost were i was going with this someone finish)=]

    3. Taz says:

      This is BS man. corrupt officers trying to make their quota

    4. wbs 101 says:

      I wonder how many wall-street protesters make up this number it seems like that would be a way to “get these pesky protesters off the street” so they can protect the “important” people. This doesn’t surprise me at all expect it to be higher next year if the protests ramp up. The NYPD disgusts me they are protecting their officers no matter what they do arrest anyone you want and pick a charge or pepper spray some little girls we will defend you. I’m sorry but I have no respect for any of them if I was one of them and saw this crap I would quit or do undercover spying and try to get these bullies fired. Just to make you guys feel more safe these super trooper idiots have the ability to shoot a plane out of the sky.

    5. Now that’s a rotten apple!

    6. Denver WMD says:

      The War Goes on? this is infringing on our constitutional rights & Disregard of human rights, its a Illegal war.NYC is a complete police state. & has carried out racist policies, illegal search and seizure against the people their sworn to protect. NJ. Same Infringement upon the people, in your state. All across the USA we see this. Mr. President Barack Obama?

    7. The Oracle says:

      How many NYC cops themselves used cannabis before they became cops? And now here they are busting folks for it. Get the statistics and shame them in the face of the public, timing it right for maximum public support of our legislation.

      Once the NYC domino fall, NY state isn’t far behind. When NY state goes, cannabis prohibition’s days are numbered because the feds will have to fight a 3-front war: West Coast (CA), Rockies (CO), East Coast (New England to DC).

      Their resources are as thin as their hides are thick.

    8. If you live in Connecticut and want to end marijuana prohibition in our state, please take a minute to visit http://www.ctprimaryproject.com.

      Please pass this on to anyone you know in Connecticut!

    9. Douglas says:

      There no way the gov will lower the cannabis law’s in (N-Y). And i never met any one from (N-Y) who had the back bone to stand up for what is right. Why do u think all this arrest have been going on for all the years.

    10. Don says:

      You have to wonder how ongoing police actions of this nature affect the way other nations perceive the supposed “Land of the Free”. The way this unjust law is enforced in New York. I know it would make me want to think twice about being a tourist in America. I’d probably be safer somewhere like China or Russia.

    11. Smoke n toke says:

      Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord. JEREMIAH CH9. – V6 .

    12. […] This includes weekly articles on current and upcoming legislation in addition to features on law enforcement’s and medicine’s handling of marijuana. His posts are in-depth, full of statistics and analysis, […]

    13. […] NORML Blog, Marijuana Law ReformDid you like this? Share it:Tweet Tags: Arrest, Capital, City, Marijuana, still, World, York […]

    14. Clinton William Jefferson says:

      The Bush presidents, Dick Cheney, John Walters and all the Republicans who have waged a war on marijuana all these years is the reason that President Obama, New York’s Democrats, even Mayor Bloomberg have had to fight as they have for reforming The Empire State’s archane pot laws: if it were not for them, marijuana arrests would be like 50,680 arrests. Thank Democrats like Obama and all the others who we keep voting for like lemmings, otherwise, pot would be illegal in NYC!

    15. […] New York City: Still The Marijuana Arrest Capital Of The World Low level marijuana arrests in New York City rose for the seventh straight year in 2011 to 50,680. The arrest total is the highest total on record since former pot smoker Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and it is the second highest total of pot arrests ever recorded in the history of the city (just 587 arrests behind the record holding year 2000, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani oversaw some 51,267 people arrested for marijuana violations). Shockingly, the near-record high arrest total comes just months after New York City Police Commissioner […] […]

    16. Joel: the other Joel says:

      Everything you can think about New York City is true.

    17. Danny Grant says:

      I was arrested in New York and charged. I had 3 grams of marijuana on my person. I am now refused government student loans. My Life is damaged forever.

    18. Planetairein says:

      Crimes against humanity ! What A holes this country has! NYPD SUCKS THE BIG APPLE DRY!

    19. Zuke says:

      That is…simply disgusting and infuriating, but then again our system of ‘law enforcement’ often is. So is how the infallible gods among mortals the police operate.

      Hell, I’m told once upon a time people actually trusted the police and saw them as a good thing they wanted around. I don’t know if people were just naive or if the police were really different, but I have trouble viewing police and the sorts of absurd, unrestrained powers they’re given without my thoughts descending to pure hatred, which is terrible because there are some police men out there that are actually good people and not only wouldn’t act in a dishonest fashion, but would not even uphold laws that they knew were plainly wrong. Unfortunately the system in place now lets the narcissistic, selfish bullies and thugs that are often drawn to the police force just run amok.

      When I hear about the sorts of things happening and the sorts of numbers in the above report, and think about who’s responsible, it seriously makes my stomach hurt.

    20. Matthew Swaye says:

      The NYPD has a problem? It’s being run like a corporation? Kelly is a warmonger and a businessman? Our complacency is a testament to the totality of his police state? Our silence is the goal of the open-air prisons he’s made of marginalized neighborhoods? All this oink oink bang bang shit is keeping us safe from terrorism? We haven’t had another 9/11 so quit complaining about a whole generation of Black and Latino youth violated?

      We want our streets back. We should be moving into an era in which the cops do less. Instead, they’re doing more and more. (700,000 S&F’s last year.) Collectively and peacefully we gotta stand up! We all have cameras – there’s no logical reason we can’t cop-watch this cop problem away. Cameras on! Film the NYPD saying, “I’m just doing my job.” Create an exhibit for the emerging, decentralized online museum of the New Jim Crow. Shame these thugs in perpetuity. Their grandchildren will know what they did for a living. Their great-grandchildren will know that gun buy-backs worked wonders and that Stop&Frisk was a crime against humanity.

      *Raw Footage* Elders Arrested By NYPD in Harlem Jan. 5, 2012
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S_Q4KumJNE

    21. Nathan says:

      This just shows why I’m glad I don’t live in NYC. The only reason I’d ever move there is to start up a sea of green operation and to try to flood the market with high grade cannabis :) The government will never stop us.

    22. gb says:

      Most people just pay the fine. Those who don’t pay, go to jail. I think we would all be blown away, if we knew how much money flows in fines alone. They’re addicted to the money. That’s why they fight tooth and nail to keep pot illegal. One would think that the tax revenue would be enough to offset it but when it’s illegal, often times,they also get to raid your bank account and other assets and the voters don’t complain.

    23. WDWjunior says:

      Vote Dr.Ron Paul New York! He will be like
      Pres. FDR who ended the
      alcohol prohibition only he will end the fed.
      prohibition of marijuana and hemp. Jesus turned water into wine. God grew Pot. +

    24. The Oracle says:

      How many of the NYCPD cops ever used pot? I’ve seen statistics gathered on other police departments that are like 65% of them, but that they reported on their applications that it was so long ago that they still got the jobs. I wonder if these stats can be obtained for NYC and used to shame the cops and simultaneously boost support for reform.

    25. Nancy Lee Garrett says:

      Some of the police in Maryland turn a blind eye to marijuana use. Some don’t. Not to get off the subject.
      I want to know how can the Fed’s collect taxes from medical marijuana dispensaries
      and then raid them and shut them down???

    26. david says:

      These people have the right to refuse these stop and frisk searches they simply need to say i dont consent to any searches without a warrant they will still be searched and possibly arrested but it opens the door for the evidence to be shut out

    27. john williamson says:

      its funny how quick most police are to arrest someone for pot. makes me wonder what kind of people they really are

    28. Dave Evans says:

      Nancy, the Federal government has no authority to perform such activities. There are no dispensaries for out of state buyers. Therefore, the feds have no say what-so-ever.

    29. lockedoutoftheshed says:

      why is this suprising? the big money folks in the capitals crystal palace said NO! our corrupt government will never legalize the awesome herb..NEVER!…the big money folks stand to lose too damn much…it is so dis heartning but its the truth..they are still talking the same shit as they did from the get-go.THEY have the power to keep it this way.i pray every nite that this would turn around…every nite!.they hide behind the prez and, all the while he is but a puppet. it will not ever matter who gets into office..when the new unit gets in, THEY will make the adjustments to what he wants for america..i hate feelin this way but i just cannot see any light at the end of the legalization tunnel….peace to you all.

    30. Why are we still arresting sick patients?

    31. Fireweed says:

      It amazes and disgusts me that with so much talk about “getting government out of our personal lives,” “making government smaller,” and “protecting personal freedom” that there is so much resistance, be it aggressive or passive, at letting marijuana be legalized. They say they want to preserve the unique level of personal liberty and opportunity that this country provides. Nowhere would this be more applicable than with legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. With almost half of Americans currently receiving some form of government assistance, this set of actions would: provide an entire industry of jobs-we could become a major exporter of hemp and hemp-based textiles and have China on their knees begging for our products; improve highway and traffic safety-we have inadvertently doing a completely random study and keeping accurate impartial date this whole time that states have been playing with various forms of legalizatin, and the results are in that THERE IS A STRONG CORRELATION BETWEEN STATES THAT HAVE DECRIMINALIZED AND ARE MORE TOLERANT OF MARIJUANA USAGE AND LOWER RATES OF TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS AND FATALITIES (and a similar correlation between states more prohibitive of marijuana use and higher traffic accident and fatality rates); decreased health care costs in that cannabis has natural antiinflammatory properties and inflammation is one of the biggest elements of some of our most costly chronic diseases-heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, IBS, etc., and THERE ARE STUDIES OUT THAT SHOW CANNABIS’ EFFICACY IN REDUCING INFLAMMATORY AND HPA AXIS RESPONSE we could probably lower health care costs by a third by letting people smoke pot; with this insane amount of money being spent on arrests court costs and incarceration related to pot use we could do much to balance the budget either way AND legalizing pot would take it completely out of the element of gangsterville and place an additional barrier against minors acquiring pot (and in the grand scheme of things what’s the big deal?-there’s not just a few great achievers who took their first hit before age 16)but I know I would much rather get pot from a licensed store where I know there’s some level of accountability and perhaps even I might have my choice of strains rather than have to take what I get which usually sucks. The facts in this situation don’t just SPEAK for themselves, they’re screaming to be heard.

      It would absolutely turn this country around! What is it going to take to see this happen?

    32. Dave Evans says:

      TMD, for the same reason they were telling black folk to get to the back of the bus. They are crackers. They have a god given right to tell everyone else what to do and how to behave. And how much you’re worth. There isn’t any “we” when society has to deal with crackers, we just clean up their messes and bury our dead.

    33. TiredOfBS says:

      Nothing new here. This has been going on in the New York City area since the late 1960s to my knowledge, probably long before that. The best way to fight back is to vote with your dollars. Until NYC and NY State decide to stop the Nazi BS with regard to marijuana, don’t travel there as a tourist. If you are involved in choosing a convention site for your business or organization, skip NY. Boycott the city and state until they decide that justice is the answer. There are a lot of us. We are possibly in the majority. We who use marijuana have to start standing up for ourselves. Boycott the Pot War states. If you need a travel destination, try northern California. You have urban San Francisco and rural Humboldt/Mendocino. If the powers that be want to persecute people like us, we sure don’t need to support their economy.

    34. Jeri says:

      Project 4.20.2012

      NOW is the time to Unite in Washington DC and Rally for CHANGE on Friday 4-20-2012. Project 4-20-12 is for the Federal Legalization of Marijuana Now! We need to urge the Federal Government to Declassify Marijuana from a schedule I Drug to a Schedule V Drug and leave the States regulate it and make their own laws. The Federal Government needs to eradicate the illegal growers who are destroying our National Forests and bring to justice illegal traffickers that bring drugs from outside our country. Our Federal Tax Dollars would be better spent to combat the new rise in Heroin use as well as Cocaine, Meth and the new k-2 & spice designer drugs that are hurting our nation’s youth. We need to quit putting people in jail and ruining their lives for having small amounts of Marijuana in their possession or growing a few plants. ( Natures Medicine ) We need to make room in our prisons for the really bad criminals and not build new ones.

      President Obama has gone back on his word stating that the federal government would not interfere with the Legalization of Medical Marijuana in the States. There have been numerous raids on legal growers and pharmacy’s in many states. These raids have given the government lots of money and assets. It has become easy pickens for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers. Since 1996 15 States and Washington DC have passed laws permitting Marijuana for medical use. Now Oregon is now proposing to allow police access to the legal grower’s information. This may open everything up to the federal government to come in and seize equipment, money and assets from legal growers and ruin their lives. They live in fear..

      Legalization brings the underground economy above ground, makes new business and revenues for both State and Federal Governments….

      WE NEED TO WAKE UP WASHINGTON NOW!!
      I have waited almost 40 years and that’s long enough..
      Comments to: project4.20.2012@gmail.com

    35. sitting here at quarter past 1. am.just coming down from a one hit form my bowl, 2 hrs ago reading that NYC the capital of the world arrest capital of the world http://blog.norml.org/2012/02/02/new-york-city-still-the-marijuana-arrest-capital-of-the-world/ watching current videos of corrupt NYC Police Officers with some BS stop n frisk law. arresting elderly citizens, and the BS NYC LAWS and the Arrests made to citizens that possessed Marijuana. WOW. Quote Unquote “Hell, I’m told once upon a time people actually trusted the police and saw them as a good thing they wanted around. I don’t know if people were just naive or if the police were really different, but I have trouble viewing police and the sorts of absurd, unrestrained powers they’re given without my thoughts descending to pure hatred, which is terrible because there are some police men out there that are actually good people and not only wouldn’t act in a dishonest fashion, but would not even uphold laws that they knew were plainly wrong. Unfortunately the system in place now lets the narcissistic, selfish bullies and thugs that are often drawn to the police force just run amok.

      When I hear about the sorts of things happening and the sorts of numbers in the above report, and think about who’s responsible, it seriously makes my stomach hurt. Quote Unquote . mine too :| and then read : Matthew Swaye says:
      February 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm
      The NYPD has a problem? It’s being run like a corporation? Kelly is a warmonger and a businessman? Our complacency is a testament to the totality of his police state? Our silence is the goal of the open-air prisons he’s made of marginalized neighborhoods? All this oink oink bang bang shit is keeping us safe from terrorism? We haven’t had another 9/11

      We want our streets back. We should be moving into an era in which the cops do less. Instead, they’re doing more and more. (700,000 Stop & Frisk ’s last year.) Collectively and peacefully we gotta stand up!costing 900 taxpayers 900 million dollars and rising. We all have cameras – there’s no logical reason we can’t cop-watch this cop problem away. Cameras on! Film the NYPD saying, “I’m just doing my job.” Create an exhibit for the emerging, decentralized online museum of the New Jim Crow. Shame these thugs in perpetuity. Their grandchildren will know what they did for a living. Their great-grandchildren will know that gun buy-backs worked wonders and that Stop & Frisk was a crime against humanity.

      *Raw Footage* Elders Arrested By NYPD in Harlem Jan. 5, 2012
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S_Q4KumJNE

      also stating facts from : In the last decade since Michael Bloomberg became mayor, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost to taxpayers of $600 million dollars.

      – Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos. (and then continue watching raw videos of NYC COPS and there Brutal act of nature against its communities. thums down BOOOOO lets do something about it NOW!! Legalgize Marijuana . I SUPPORT !! LETS STOP : STOP AND FRISK against blacks and latinos in NYC and put 900 million dollars BACK into NYC and the rest of NY. omg then i came accross this video wtf dated july 30th of 2011. Im going to bed. wow!! Living in NYC Sucks wow.

    36. World Peace V visit site :www.norml.org

    37. Douglas says:

      The cops know that the pot heads in (N-Y) Dont have the balls to stand up to them. They try that here in Texas and got there ass kick in. Just pulling out some one because they look like they have pot. In the late 70 the Houston P.D Try that Shit and we kick there ass. All those we may be back ward here. we remember why our fathers and mothers went to fight in ww2. In the valley the border patrol was doing that to. A few years back . It dint take lone till some one let one have it with a 12 gauge pump with buck shot. (N-Y) Has surrender to the Government.

    38. Don says:

      It is really a very good thing for Mayor Bloomberg and Giuliani that, as a general rule, cannabis consumers are peaceful and intelligent. If not, they both probably would have been assassinated.

      Can you imagine what would happen if they treated any other minority group as badly as they have treated us?

      In my opinion, both of them are complete disgraces and are guilty of hate crimes and yet they still walk around free and seemingly proud of themselves. I think most law enforcement personnel are just following orders but some of them are just as guilty!

      Very lucky indeed for them!

    39. Michael says:

      I thought that I would share this so that you know we are not alone trying to get this passed http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/montel-and-medical-marijuana/6xfhgbo?cpkey=1e8b1513-812b-4676-afe0-7e6d3ccc6485%7c%7c%7c%7c

    40. carbonanotglue says:

      I was busted for pot in NYC. I had a $20 bag on me, enough to roll a couple of joints. I’m a white female with an advanced degree and had no history of arrest or trouble with the law. I was smoking a joint on the street with a friend on our way to yoga class. Was it a stupid thing to do? Sure, but we were walking down a side street in the East Village, and the only other people on the street were two tattooed, punk-looking guys. They were undercover cops, and they came up to us and slapped the cuffs on me. (I had the bag and I was holding the joint.) I spent 36 hours in jail before being given three days of community service and ACD (adjournment on contemplation of dismissal, which means it falls off your record if you stay out of trouble for a year.) It was a humiliating, cruel experience in which I was denied water for eight hours, with a cop telling me, “You can live without water for three days.” At least half of the people doing community service with me (I had to clean parks for 8 hours a day) were there for pot arrests.

    41. Don says:

      @cabonanotglue – Your experience reminds of why I hate the marijuana laws and most cops!

      I feel for you…

    42. felix says:

      legalize it legalize it………

    43. Galileo Galilei says:

      It’s actually rather chilling that an armed agency like NYPD seems incapable of controlling its agents. This truly merits an investigation. Discipline needs to be enforced.

    44. Well now we know that anything under 25gr shouldn’t count as a misdemeanor crime. If you can prove you didn’t keep it “open for the public to see”, you should be fine!

    45. Mike says:

      My home was invaded by my landlord without prior notice. He found my 18 marijuana seedlings (5 days old) and took pictures, which he sent to the local police department. They got a search warrant two days later and took me into interrogation while I was pickin up my two year old. I’m only 18 and I have no criminal history yet I’m being charged with a felony of manufacture of a controlled substance. I had no produced marijuana in my home, or my system, and had no paraphenelia that was relevant to me cultivating the plants for re-sale. Cultivation of marijuana is supposed to be a misdemeanor in WY, but I guess I’m too big of a danger to society! Don’t got enough money for a real lawyer so I have a public defender, hopefully I’ll make it out alright. This incident has just made me an even bigger activist and you can be sure when my sentence is served I’m movin to Cali to grow legally! Just thought you folks might wanna hear that even though I got screwed i ain’t given up

    46. […] by a $100 fine. However, in recent years, police — particularly in New York City — have misused Penal Law 221.10 to arrest defendants who would have otherwise faced no more than a civil citation. Passage of these […]

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