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. sfm says:

      Drug testing on the job? Only if a situation warrants it…such as injury or destruction of property…or just plain stupidity !most “normal” smokers wont go to ANY job stoned!

    2. derbysailor says:

      A friend of mine has a few questions which she is too shy to ask, so I’m asking for him. Are airports ( Seattle, Denver, etc.)considered federal property? How about the security lines and how will they function? TSA folks are feds afterall. My friend also wonders how things will work at the airport (Seattle, for interest) for passengers going to say…Miami. Does that answer change if the plane is going to say…Denver? Sometimes my friend likes to travel on cruise lines. How would my friend be treated if she booked a cruise out of say…Seattle. To make this question easier, what if he did not disembark anywhere and just stayed on board eating all the time?

    3. If the Federal government changed the schedule of the controlled substance cannabis with recognition of the medical value, in pursuit of legalization, some benefits include medicinal welfare, taxing to support government programs and regulated, legal markets reducing sales and use among teens. There are different causes of pain therefor there are different types of pain such as cancer, AIDS, Neurological disorders, Inflammatory pain glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune diseases, these are some conditions in which medical marijuana may be the most effective form of relief. Opiates work better for acute pain such the loss of a limb during a car accident, while marijuana relieves more chronic pains such as inflammation, anxiety, and nausea that could last for years or the rest of a person’s life. According to the (Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report) 858,408 people have been prosecuted for marijuana violations in 2009 alone, this number is responsible for more than one-half of all drug arrests reported in the United States. More than $51,000,000,000 is spent annually in the United States on the war on drugs while this money should be going towards helping fund the schools and education. According to the federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) teen use of marijuana has dropped from 24.8 percent to 22 percent since Colorado started regulating medical marijuana in 2009, while the nationwide level continues to climb from 20.8 to 23.1 percent, these numbers show that even some regulation of marijuana can decrease its availability and use among teens.

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    5. Don M says:

      If anyone arrested for a minor pot violation did get out and commit a violent act, it would most likely be because of their experiences during incarceration! I imagine the likelihood of someone commiting a violent crime after being incarcerated would increase in direct proportion to the length of incarceration their treatment during their stay at the local jail or prison. I’m a very peaceful person by nature but even I can imagine being very angry, and possibly very violent, if I were to be locked up among violent criminals. Once released I may very well want revenge on those that made me go through that experience. I’m not one of those peace loving hippies that Nixon hated so much. I’m an ex-marine and I’d want to kick-ass if the freedom I risked my life to defend was to be taken away for something less dangerous than the booze and cigarettes the members of the GOP love so much.

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