New York City, NY: 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 this week 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, Gov. Andrew Cuomo lobbied in favor of equalizing the state’s marijuana possession penalties and reducing 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."
According to media reports, state lawmakers are now considering authorizing the New York City Council to enact local legislation to equalize all minor marijuana possession offenses as non-criminal violations.
Full text of the study, "One million police hours making 440,000 marijuana possession arrests in New York City, 2002-2012," appears online at: http://www.drugpolicy.org.