Report: New York City Cops Spent One Million Hours In Staff Time Making Marijuana Possession ArrestsMarch 19, 2013
New York City police spent an estimated one million hours in staff time making low level marijuana possession arrests between the years 2002 and 2012, according to the findings of a study released today by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance.
Authors of the study report that City law enforcement personnel engaged in approximately one million hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over the past 11 years. Authors further estimated that those arrested for marijuana possession in New York City have spent five million hours in police custody over the last decade.
Authors concluded: “[I]t is clear that the marijuana arrests have taken police off the street and away from other crime-fighting activities for a significant amount of time.”
Under 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 [NY State Penal Law 221.10].
Previously published data reports that over 90 percent of all marijuana arrests in the state of New York occur in New York City. In 2011, New York City law enforcement spent $75 million arresting approximately 50,000 minor marijuana offenders under Penal Law 221.10. Many of these offenders possessed small amounts of marijuana on their person, and only revealed the cannabis publicly after being ordered by police to empty their pockets during ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches. Over 85 percent of those charged were either African American or Latino.
In his 2013 ‘State of the State’ address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lobbied in favor of legislation to equalize the state’s marijuana possession penalties and to reduce the number of low-level possession arrests in New York City. “These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record,” he said. “It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end, and it must end now.”
Full text of the report, “One million police hours making 440,000 marijuana possession arrests ion New York City, 2002-2012,” appears online here.
NORML will be among a number of advocacy groups in Annapolis tomorrow to testify in favor of House Bill 1453, which seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana consumption in Maryland.
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre will be testifying before members of the House Committee on the Judiciary. The Committee is scheduled to hear the measure on Tuesday, March 19 at 1:00pm. Excerpts of Allen St. Pierre’s written testimony appears below.
It is time for Maryland lawmakers to give serious consideration to this proposal. Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition and replacing it with regulation. The historic votes on Election Day in Colorado and Washington – where, for the first time ever, a majority of voters decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition – underscore this political reality.
… Despite more than 70 years of federal marijuana prohibition, Americans’ consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for state lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises and it is time for lawmakers to impose common-sense regulations governing cannabis’ personal use by adults and licensing its production. A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for limited, licensed production and sale of cannabis to adults – but restricts use among young people – best reduces the risks associated with its use or abuse.
If you reside in Maryland and are not among the over 4,000 state residents who have already contacted your House member in favor of HB 1453, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page now and do so by clicking here.
Today, members of the Maryland Senate are also scheduled to vote on separate legislation, Senate Bill 297, which seeks to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses. You can learn more about this bill and urge your member of the Senate to endorse the measure by clicking here.
Maryland is one of ten states that is debating legislation this year to legalize cannabis use. Nearly a dozen states are also considering decriminalization measures. A summary of pending state legislative marijuana law reform measures is available from NORML here.
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A record number of statewide marijuana law reform measures are pending in 2013. Is your state one of them?
To find out — and to contact your state elected officials in favor of pending legislation — just click here, find the legislative alert applicable to your state, enter your name and zip code, and a pre-written letter of support will be electronically sent to your state House or Senate member. (To contact your member of Congress in support of federal legislative reforms, just follow these same steps.)
Here’s an overview of just some of these pending statewide measures:
Five states are considering legislation to legalize the adult consumption and sale of marijuana.
Nine states are considering legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses.
Eight states are considering legislation to legalize the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
If your state is not listed, please continue to check back to the NORML website often as we update legislative alerts daily. Over the coming weeks, several additional measures are expected to be introduced.
If your state is listed, please be sure to use this page to contact your elected officials. They hear from our opponents; they also need to hear from you! Those who sign up to receive NORML’s electronic newsletter here will also receive time-sensitive legislative updates to let you know when hearings and votes are pending on these specific measures.
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In his State of the State address, delivered this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to reforming his state’s marijuana laws. The governor proposed decriminalizing the possession of 15 grams of marijuana in public view to a civil violation. Currently only possession of marijuana in private is decriminalized, possession in public view is still currently a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 with a maximum sentence of 90 days.
“These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end and it must end now,” Governor Cuomo stated.
Last year, the Governor declared his support for a similar proposal, but was unable to gather significant support in the state legislature by the end of the year. NORML applauds Governor Cuomo’s commitment to the issue and we were glad to see him putting the topic front and center in a prominent speech.
You can view Governor Cuomo’s speech on C-SPAN here.
Despite several attempts by the media and policy makers to associate the rising number of state regulated medical marijuana programs (and popular legalization efforts) with a rise in use and a drop in associated risk, the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey reports that there was no rise in daily or annual marijuana use among teens. According to the report, “annual marijuana use [among 8th, 10th and 12th graders] showed no further increase in any of the three grades surveyed in 2012… [And the] daily use of marijuana…remained essentially flat.” Also of note, despite the sharp decline in perceived risk of marijuana use across all three grades, there was a statistically significant decline of use among 8th graders. These numbers are consistent with other recent studies showing that states with regulated marijuana programs have not seen an increase in teen use. Some have even seen a decrease in pot use among their youth population.
“This study suggests that exposure among teens to the concept of marijuana regulation policies (one third of whom live in such states) does not cause an increase in use. It is also important to consider that a drop in perceived risk is likely associated with their rejection of the overzealous scare tactics used in most schools’ drug education programs” said Sabrina Fendrick of the NORML Women’s Alliance.
It is important to note, however, that marijuana use rates and availability nationwide remain at relatively high levels, while alcohol use rates remain historically low. This is most likely due to the fact that the former is illegal and thereby not subject to government controls, while the latter substance is legally restricted to adults only. The same goes for tobacco. We did not have to outlaw cigarettes to reduce the use among minors. A policy of education and regulation (not prohibition) has created an environment in which cigarette usage has fallen to an all time low. According to the principal investigator of the study, Lloyd Johnston, “[A] lowering teen smoking rates…likely…depend[s] on…changes such as raising cigarette taxes, further limiting where smoking is permitted, bringing back broad-based anti-smoking ad campaigns, and making quit-smoking programs more available.” It has been proven that age restrictions, coupled with the imposition of government regulation and education are the most effective at reducing youth access to adult-only recreational substances. According to the 2011 MFS report, the drop in alcohol use can be attributed to a strict regulation scheme that include educational campaigns focusing on responsible use and age restrictions which, in turn, lowers availability.
The report concluded; “In the 1980’s a number of states raised their minimum drinking age to twenty-one, which these researches were able to demonstrate reduced drinking.” It goes on to say “the proportion of 8th and 10th graders who say they could get alcohol ‘fairly easily’ or ‘very easily’ had been declining since 1996 and continued to drop in all three grades in 2011. Various other factors of likely importance include…higher beer taxes and restrictions on alcohol promotion to youth.” The 2012 survey reported that again, “there was no increase in perceived availability of alcohol.”
One can therefore conclude that the only sensible answer to restricting marijuana access to [as well as use among] minors is through state and local government regulation and a message of moderation.