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Study: Those Arrested For Minor Pot Offenses Unlikely To Subsequently Commit Violent Crimes

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 23, 2012

    Arresting and prosecuting low level marijuana offenders in New York City has little or no impact on law enforcement efforts to reduce violent crime, according to a study released today by Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy organization that focuses on human rights violations worldwide.

    The study’s authors reviewed data from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services to track the criminal records of nearly 30,000 people who had no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession in public view [NY State Penal Law 221.10] in 2003 and 2004. Researchers assessed whether those arrested for minor marijuana violations engaged in additional, more serious criminal activity in the years following their arrest.

    They reported: “[W]e found that 3.1 percent of [marijuana arrestees] were subsequently convicted of one violent felony offense during the six-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half years that our research covers; 0.4 percent had two or more violent felony convictions. That is, 1,022 persons out of the nearly 30,000 we tracked had subsequent violent felony convictions. Ninety percent (26,315) had no subsequent felony convictions of any kind.”

    New York City police arrest more people for possessing small amounts of marijuana in public view than for any other offense, the study found. Between 1996 and 2011, police made more than half-a-million (586,320) arrests for this misdemeanor, including a total of around 100,000 in just the 2 years of 2010 and 2011. Of those arrested, the overwhelming majority are either Black or Latino and under 25 years of age.

    Investigators concluded: “[T]he rate of felony and violent felony conviction among this group of first-time marijuana arrestees appears to be lower than the rate of felony conviction for the national population, taking into account age, gender, and race. … Neither our findings nor those of other researchers indicate the arrests are an efficient or fair means for identifying future dangerous felons.”

    Under New York state law, the private possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. By contrast, the possession of any amount of cannabis in public view is a criminal misdemeanor.

    In June, Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged lawmakers to close the ‘public view’ loophole. That effort was ultimately quashed by, Senate majority leader, Republican Dean Skelos, who argued, “Being able to just walk around with ten joints in each ear, and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong.”

    In October, Gov. Cuomo reiterated his support for amending the state’s marijuana laws. Speaking a the New York State Trooper Class of 2012 graduation ceremony, Cuomo said that he “would not consider” convening a special legislative session unless lawmakers were willing to consider reforms to reduce New York City’s skyrocketing marijuana arrest rates.

    45 Responses to “Study: Those Arrested For Minor Pot Offenses Unlikely To Subsequently Commit Violent Crimes”

    1. […] Study: Those Arrested For Minor Pot Offenses Unlikely To Subsequently Commit Violent Crimes Arresting and prosecuting low level marijuana offenders in New York City has little or no impact on law enforcement efforts to reduce violent crime, according to a study released today by Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy organization that focuses on human rights violations worldwide. The study’s authors reviewed data from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services to track the criminal records of nearly 30,000 people who had no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession in public view [NY State Penal Law 221.10] in 2003 […] […]

    2. CAmed patient says:

      Out here in California i often walk around in public with ten joints in each ear just because i can. Its pretty tricky getting ten joints in each ear but when theres a will theres a way.

    3. A criminal record, even for a joint. Is still a criminal record. The way it is viewed is that you are now a criminal. Reguardless what you did, your in the system. And your screwed.
      I would like to see a campaign for a War on Political Corruption.

      Thanks NORML

    4. I shudder at the horror of being violated in the ear with a single joint much less 10 joints in each ear.

    5. Warren Osborn says:

      Fuck Obama and his NAZI storm troopers!

    6. claygooding says:

      “”Those Arrested For Minor Pot Offenses Unlikely To Subsequently Commit Violent Crimes Arresting and prosecuting low level marijuana offenders in New York City has little or no impact on law enforcement efforts to reduce violent crime””

      Editing needed,,it sounds like the study proves that the time spent arresting all those low level marijuana charges does not reduce the manpower or resources used to solve violent crimes by the police,but in reality the hours lost booking,testifying and investigating marijuana could have been spent solving a violent crime instead.

    7. phrtao says:

      Is the ten joints in each ear really an issue? Is it somehow better if it is a criminal misdemeanour rather than a civil citation ? I don’t really see that this will make a difference to any one (except those involved in the judicial process!). I suppose they see it as one small step towards the oblivion of ‘legal’ cannabis. All those people who would smoke it already smoke it ! Those who are fearful of it’s bad effects don’t and will not just because it is no longer a criminal offence. If it turns out that it is not that bad for you after all then a few more people will try it – maybe as an alternative to alcohol or prescription drugs. Pretty soon people are going to realise this en-mass and all the silly scare stories will just have zero credibility. As more days go by we can see the war is lost and marijuana has won. The people clinging to prohibition are going to look increasingly stupid but for many of them they simply can’t turn back now – how sad.

    8. We’re gaining momentum. Thank you to all who have participated in pulling the covers on this hoax. I don’t like that so many are perpetuating the myths that revolve around pretend-land DANGERS of cannabis though. Why does it “need” to regulated like alcohol? Because it’s thought to be politically expedient by some. I’m grateful for the progress and know that we can get a finer point on the focus. Why not call a lie a lie and craziness crazy?

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    10. John says:

      So, were those who were arrested less likely to commit crimes having been unfairly railroaded once and thereby learning their lesson? i.e. it becoming a deterrent?

      Or, are marijuana smokers just to glued to their couches to do anything, crime or otherwise? Thereby enforcing the negative stereotype?

      Or did the people just become more careful? i.e. were smarter about not geting caught. That applies to be after getting an appearance and $90 fine when I was 18.

      Or are marijuana smokers just generally more successful in the end? All that creativity and stuff. (another negative stereotype disguised to look like a positive stereotype.

      Or anything else the data might appear to show?

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