Report: New York City Cops Spent One Million Hours In Staff Time Making Marijuana Possession Arrests

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.

32 thoughts

  1. Basically law enforcement MADE ONE MILLION HOURS WORTH OF SALARY in one year. How will they ever give up this “cash cow”. How much property did they seize and enjoy the spoils of. The governor should be thanked for his brave stand. NEW YORK CITIES STOP AND SEARCH POLICY IS A CRIME IN ITSELF. I hope more governors follow suit.

  2. What an incredible waste!!!

    When will the stupidity end?

    Why can’t the powers that be understand that the harm of prohibition far outweighs any harm that would result from legalization?

  3. Cops will not be trusted until they stop acting like they run the world. Doing as they please and breaking the law they are sworn to protect.

    The prohibition of marijuana is what makes the drug a danger. I know it. You know it, the police know it and yet they still throw everyday people in jail for a HARMLESS drug that’s safer than peanuts.

  4. Also, I wonder how much $$ that would add up to?
    I read that the average salary for a NY police officer is $45,000. That’s just mind blowing amount of waste.


  5. That’s 440,000 citizens documented as well as burdened for life for possession of a plant in a country that “Trusts In God”. It’s also a huge drain on NY State tax-payers. It legitimizes an increased police presence as they have to do something while on the job.

    I grew up in NY, and it’s sad… I had to move away. I was subject to one of those “prized convictions” for marijuana possession, one of the 10% outside of NYC. An illicit, unapproved search of my car that yielded a pot-pipe buried under debris on my front passenger side seat. That was in 1985 and it haunts me to this day.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but that’s plain wrong. Truth be told I find it hard to even support control of through criminal means of hard drugs like heroin and meth, given that the two legal drugs out there are sold in adult candy stores with hardly the blink of an eye.

    And we’re arresting and torturing people for cannabis??? Why is it so hard to see the injustice in this? Why can’t our government see how wrong it is?

  6. Time and money well spent! Get those vicious, terrible, non-deadly bud smokers off the streets!!!

    Who needs to put rapists, murderers and thieves behind bars…

  7. There’s a video on youtube about this NY stupidity and it’s riveting. It’s titled “The War on Weed” I believe. Completely insane. They target blacks and other minorities and they call it stop and frisk. The cop will ask (illegally) the suspect to empty his pockets. Mind you, this person is simply walking down the street bothering nobody. But, once he empties his pockets, and his weed is in his hand… it’s in public view. Now we’re taking you in sucka. It’s in violation of the constitution and they’re violating the rights of their own citizens. And they seem to be enjoying it. I’ll provide a link with my next post.

  8. Wow, that’s insane. Just think, I could self medicate for the rest of my life with this kind of money. It destroys me to see such money wasted like this, absolutely disgusted with the US. Govt.

  9. Sounds like they need to legalize it-
    and cut police funding by $500k

    that would roughly, then, equate to
    an additional $500k INTO the police force
    for real SIGNIFICANT crimes
    and be putting $500k into other expenses

    (not counting the gains from taxation)

    = win / win

  10. err 500 hours of operating costs
    (which is a much greater influx into police budgeting as well as the municipal budget)

  11. Wow, I feel they owe this money back. Not only we’re they lying when arresting people, but they were “entrapping”, which means every cop that did this should be spending at least a couple of nights behind bars.

  12. @harry schultz I agree but you can’t forget the “top cop” award to go along with that paycheck!

  13. Big deal, there still spending just as much time on citations and if you don’t pay the fine where do you end up…………jail !
    You forgot something here, it is still illegal & time and money is still spent on a useless fight against a propaganda campaign & marijuana in New York .

  14. The citizens are the powers to be..if we continue to do nothing…then continue bend to over and pray to god for vaseline…

  15. Well, which programs have had cuts that you could divert the money from the cops’ budget to? Cops’ budget gets cut by amount they waste the year before a budget is finalized. It’s a waste of money, and that money is needed elsewhere.

    Do it. If the Big Apple falls, and I ain’t talkin’ about New Year’s Eve, cannabis prohibition on the East Coast is gone.

    If they’re smart, they’ll soon spend no money on cannabis at all and Dutch style coffeeshops will spring up with a blind eye of the cops.

  16. Cannabis prohibition is a giant zit on the face of every politician that continues to support it! Forget “The Emperor Who Wears No Clothes”, being President Obama this time around – his threats of soon, equating to no action or response whatever to WA and CO legalizing small amounts is akin to Chinese Water-Torture, and he knows it!

    The real problem here as many of you probably already know is the moral, pro-conventional status of a set of laws that in essence are strictly enforced blue laws. Blue laws are laws that based on public morality make something illegal to do, for a time, until a shift in public perception and maturity occurs.

    The trouble with cannabis blue-laws is that they have become golden cows, worth a ton of money and a moral soapbox that the ignorant flock to…

    Cannabis as a blue law should have ended in the early 1970’s, but didn’t… enough proof exists solely in President Nixon’s Blue Ribbon Shafer Committee to alleviate doubts on the subject, and illustrate how cannabis prohibition, NYC style is a lucrative business venture. It’s a legalized pyramid scheme designed to cripple those at the bottom and enrich those at the top.

  17. Courtesy… professionalism… respect.

    Those are the words you see on the sides of the cop cars. Interesting. Do they know what those words mean?

    Ann Swern… one question: How can you possibly justify randomly stopping your citizens on the street and searching for weapons? In the interview you clearly support it. Do you know what freedom is? Do you know what civil rights are? Because your citizens are not living in a community feeling freedom when they are stooped and ILLEGALLY searched while WALKING DOWN THE STREET. That’s not the land of the free Ann. You might want to go back to school and relearn a few things with all due respect.

    You won’t ever catch me visiting NY. EVER. I’ll be going to Colorado and dumping thousands into the economy. F&*% you New York.

  18. @Rah Lam – There are a lot of us that are doing a lot for this cause. Those very few elite rich, the ones at the top of the chain like John Boehner and Michelle Leonhart, are the people who have done everything in their power to continue this failed prohibition policy. They have ignored science and the obvious will of the people in spite of all we’ve done. Your comment is really out of line in my opinion.

  19. It’s their bread and butter. Why else do you think they oppose cannabis legalization. They see first hand that pot smokers are calm individuals and drunks are like rabid animals. Money. Money. Money.

  20. Is there rally such a thing as ending prohibition?
    I say “NO”.
    I mean honestly, there is not a word that holds more power then the word alone, “PROHIBITION”
    It is nothing more than a sheild that the weak stand behind, and the strong want nothing to do with but are made to deal with because the weak are to scared an ashamed to put the sheild down.
    There is so much you could say about this headline, but lets look at the fact, cannabis is making a round about come back to the public eyes, and now the mayor is already looking for other prohibiting factors that he can have control over ……..yes to make money if your caught breaking his prohibition.
    You can’t have a large soda because he is looking out for your health, but drink as many small sodas as you would like….no concerns there.

    Ask your self this one…..when you told as a youngster growing up not to do something , all it really did was spark your curiousity, maybe you would find out or maybe you wouldnt, but your cant lie, the thought of “riding your bike where you werent supost to go” was just as easy to do as to not. For those of you who did “ride your bikes where you werent supost to go”, and found out that nothing happened or maybe you found out that you had friends who lived down that street , but in reality found out that nothing more then the word prohibition was the only thing that happened. Just like the term
    “GATEWAY DRUG” as some like to compair cannabis to, I peosonaly think that the prohibitionist knew that when the people whom they brainwashed into believing that cannabis is bad for you would “ride their bikes where they werent supost to go” and found out the truth then , the term gateway drug, could have some kinda platform, but this only applies to a small amount of those who are willing to try other harmful drugs other than cannabis.
    Using cannabis will not push anyone into using harder drugs for any reason. The reason other drugs are used for starters is because no matter what that choice is up to the individuals, not cannabis , or using it.
    Ill say it once more. “My safty , isn’t safe enough” This is whats wrong with our society.

    I read a story today where a 14 year old girl was found dead after huffing compressed air, but the parents did everything they could from taking away all their guns, locking up all thier prescription meds, and taking out all the alcohol out of thier house, with regards to the term” NERFING THEIR HOME”, but it was the simple things that they never seen comming,
    My point is no matter how much we try to save our selves from the harmfull things in the world , it is that sometimes maybe the lesser of the evils is the more clearer choice, like if they would have left a 6 pack laying around, it might have been a whole lot easier to detect any issues with a child when you can observe how your child is living VS trying to control every move they make.
    My heart and prayers go to that family who lost a part of their lives…….but we cant fix the world by lieing and hiding everything from our future.
    Prohibition will lead our future down a road of faults, and deception.
    SO go ahead Mr MAYOR , Mr President, and who ever else believes in prohibiting all the bad in the world, because its not what your prohibiting any longer ,,,,,,,its the prohibiting itself that is killing us and our future….

    as always
    thanks for reading

  21. the seed of jah is a renewable gold that is more sustainable than a prison planet of neo jim crow slavery that= to the point that anything but the 1% are expendable cabin fodder ghoulzrule


  22. Bloomberg made the searches priority when he got in office. He’s only following party lines like they all do. There all puppets…

  23. Its almost over guys!

    Soon ill be able to walk down the street
    look those ignorant ol’ anti-pot guys in the eyes
    and smoke my weed:)

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