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 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 thoughts

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. “”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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. They are much more likely to commit violent crimes after they have had their lives ruined, their hopes and dreams dashed, and been pushed through the prison system full of actual violent criminals.

  8. if they couldnt arrest people for marijuana they could not justify thier stop and frisk policy. without arrests it becomes harassment
    besides who wants to go after real criminal they can be dangerous

  9. You must have big ears… We’re winning the war on drugs (USA-government vs. a majority of people in many/all countries who would rather feel good [smoke pot] than feel bad). If we all stand up and say we are sick of this, we want to legally smoke gunja, we would probably win and get it.

  10. It’s sad when people who use Marijuana, the LEAST threatening of all drugs, are sent to prison. Last i checked Marijuana has not destroyed families and taken years off of peoples lives like the others have.

    This is only because the police and the uninformed people, see no difference between Marijuana which at worst can be habit forming, like Caffeine and sugar, vs meth,Heroin, and Cocaine, which can cause people to have holes in their brain,death due to organs collapsing, shorten lifespans and cause addictions so bad, that people go to rehab for years and parents spend a ton of money for their teenage/adult child to become sober again.

    Even in a lot of other studies when Marijuana is consumed by teenagers/adults they are LESS likely to do other drugs, because it helps them calm down and think instead of making irrational decisions like they would on Alcohol and other known drugs that is known to alter the mind and make terrible decisions over and over again.

    The movement is growing, but people must spread what i have said to others, because there is a difference between Marijuana/Sugar/Caffeine Vs the most addictive substances that destroy families and lives everyday(Heroin,Cocaine,Meth).

  11. You know when the prohibition crusaders start saying inane things like Repub’s Dean Skelos fear-mongering quip of people “walking around with ten joints in each ear” that the end is mercifully near to the insane Prohibition on cannabis!

  12. “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.”

    I wish my state was this lenient even if you do have to hide like a cockroach. On-the-other-hand, we need to keep pushing for all out legalization while anti-cannabis-prohibition has momentum.

    I think we should do a million person protest march on Washington, DC as soon as possible to keep the legalization issue in the main stream media.

    How about it NORML? We need your help to organize a march. Maybe you could open a poll on your website to see if there is enough interest.

    It’s time…

  13. thnaks for sharing – very interesting

    I really hope there will be continous effort to legalisation in all america- fear mongerers can be dealt with scienteifically, even if they wont accept it the public will.
    im sitting here in good ol europe, wating for the UN to attack Obama for not taking a stand against cannabis.i belive that what happens in the next two mnoths will decide about how fast legalisation in europe will be possible.

  14. The reason a citation is better than an arrest is that no federal bounty money is paid on misdemeanor citations,,only arrests,,take the bounty money away from law enforcement and watch police chiefs lose interest in stopping legalization.

  15. The main thing that really caught my attention in this article is that Republican Dean Skelos is a Sh@thead!!! The Republican party should take note that we do not approve of his kind!!! Is he really the kind of person that party wants representing them? If so, they may as well throw in the towel…

  16. The main thing that struck me is a Govenor of a very influential state is sticking his neck out for us and yet not a single word of support for him in any of the comments. 2+2=?

  17. I wonder how many cigarettes Senate majority leader Republican Dean Skelos could fit into his ears! Possibly more than ten and perhaps whilst similtaneously balancing a shotglass of whiskey on his head (because that’s legal). Very impressive Mr. Skelos. It’s painfully obvious to me why the Republicans are having such a hard time at the polls as of late…

  18. wow…the ten joints in each ear thing really seems to say alot about mr. skelos…it may say alot about the many who disagree about cannabis legalization. their mentality and attitude (at least his sarcastic way) without having any real knowledge about a truly benefical herb. ignorarnce supreme from a senate leader….wonder how he treats other important issues?? peace to you all!!

  19. really …people who think that just because an individual consumes cannabis that, they will likely commit more or voilent crime?..really, the ones who do commit more voilent crime were crimminals in the FIRST place…millions of cannabis consumers in this nation are otherwise, law abiding, sucessful, family raising, even church active people…WHO PAY TAXES !! and…WORK for a living..and SUPPORT THEMSELVES !! not yelling folks, just making a point to those who may search these blogs for dirt on cannabis consumers….peace to you all…

  20. @Elaine – A better question might be how many illegal cuban cigars could Skelos fit into his ears. My understanding is that illegal cigars are the primary illicit item they (the ruling class elite) like to flaunt…

    I remember watching Star Trek and finding that the higher ranking officers endulged in various illegal alcohols that came from alien cultures… Romulan Brandy anyone?

    Ultimately, busting people for choosing to use one substance over another is just predjucial, unjust, and reeks of hypocrisy! In the case of marijuana, it also reeks of racism – big time!

  21. i was thinking they should just use stivia for recreational use and use both indica and stivia for medical use so it would be safer for the road if any one that wanted to take a drive on it it would be bad for indca lovers but the point is its still be legal

  22. @Anonymous – I’m very sure we all appreciate it when a Govt entity does something to end the marijuana prohibition madness. Sometimes, nothing said, is a great deal better than something negative! Personally, I admire elected officials that are capable of evolving on this issue. They are the ones we should be supporting because they are the ones most in touch with the people of our United States.

  23. ” End of Prohibition ” ? Think again, N.O.R.M.L.

    IRON RIVER, Mich.November 25, 2012 (AP) – An Upper Peninsula man busted with a cooler of marijuana in his home has failed to convince an appeals court that it was an illegal seizure.

    Christopher Bowser of Iron County is serving a 27-month prison sentence for marijuana possession. In 2010, officers noticed a cooler during a 90-minute interview with him.

    Officers opened the cooler and found marijuana. The officers said the interview was cordial and that Bowser had disclosed the contents of the cooler before it was opened.

    Bowser claimed he was coerced. But a federal appeals court last week said Bowser wanted to cooperate with the officers, who made no immediate arrest, pulled no guns and made no threats

  24. I was pulled over for having a less than an ounce in my vehicle. I was 16 2 weeks away from turning 17, in GA when your 17 you can be arrested and put in the system. Now I ask people what good has this done for my life. If I was convicted and then every college and employer saw that, what good has really been done. Law enforcement has inhibited my potential as an american citizen just because of something that is so insignificant to ruin my chance at becoming successful. This has done more bad than good! Any person with common sense should open there eyes too this illogical war on drugs specifically marijuana and how it is a lot safer than cigarettes and alcohol. Please reform the marijuana laws to help save other young people from getting there potential success taken away from them. God Bless NORML

  25. We’re slowly winning the war! Thank all of you for your support! LEGALIZE IT! <3

    If you live in a state where Marijuana isn’t legal yet and still want the same type of highs, I suggest checking out It has amazingly detailed legal highs reviews and where to get them without getting ripped off!
    Also! I’m starting up a new forum dedicated to my fellows stoners. Come on over and join the high conversations! We’re quite new, but VERY welcoming.



  26. From Gweedo’s comment at

    “When we sat down with these representatives, we began with our usual playbook,” St. Pierre said. “They said “We don’t care about decrim anymore. We want a tax and regulate bill from you folks.” And that’s where we find ourselves now, up to our ears with the staff and the parliamentarians writing at breakneck speed, because we’ve got folks competing on the Hill now against each other as to who is going to write the biggest, best, most popular marijuana bill.”

    My gosh! I’m afraid I might wake up at any moment to find that Romney won and marijuana lost again. It also appears from the article that GOP strategies that alienated women and Latinos really came back to haunt them. It probably also didn’t help to be talking about eliminating FEMA when a hurricane/northeaster ravaged the Northeast coast, certainly not in New York and New Jersey.

  27. Jon, your story is exactly why I call this sad state of affairs, “Cracker Bullshit”. They are “in charge” so they feel free to abuse they people they are supposed to be protecting from crime. How does owning marijuana turn one into a criminal? It doesn’t. Only through the application of “Cracker Bullshit” does it become a crime. It makes no sense to me on any level, other than criminals are writing a large portion of our laws in the attempt at making us their subjects–illegally taking our money and our futures to fuel their egos because they are better than us–according to them.

    Question though, why does anyone believe them??? Cracker have been around forever, but why do some folks love obeying these ego driven pieces of shit? Laws that are brought and paid for do not represent the USA or it good people and never have.

  28. I wish I had 10 joints in each ear right now. Smoke 2, do my work (I have tolerance), blaze 2 or 3 more, save 15… Marijuana prohibition is a dumb law. Explain what good it’s doing without lying………………………….. Drugs are bad? If all drugs are bad than Marijuana is not a drug, because it’s good. I’m serious. You can’t come up with anything good for why pot needs to be illegal. Cause there isn’t any good excuse.

  29. 10 Jays behind each ear, huh? Sadly, I don’t have that problem. I do, however, have about 180 joints, but they’re all in my body with none in my pocket. 🙁

  30. i have a low tolerance for herb now that i have gotten older. ive been a consumer for 32 years until my employer decided to hair test randomly. this has been the worst three years of my life!! i have taken a variety of pharmas answer for , a.d.d., anxiety, depression and in truth, not one of them gave benefit near like just a couple hits from the pyrex. i felt more well rounded, calm, able to deal, happy while self medicating. i have raised a great family, held a job (the same one ) for 35 years now, i pay my bills,own my own home and 2 cars. i keep my overhead low . im good to my neighbors and, am otherwise a law abiding citizen. cannabis has helped me retain the title of human being!! it worked for me.i cannot quit a good job to consume cannabis cause the next one may test as well…..dammit!! come on feds….a country free to consume herb will be a happy country….peace to you all….

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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?

  34. 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!

Leave a Reply