New York City: Marijuana Possession Arrests Spike In 2016

New York, NY: Criminal arrests for marijuana possession increased ten percent in 2016 despite former promises from Mayor Bill DeBlasio to reduce the city’s total number of cannabis-related prosecutions.

New York City police made over 17,600 arrests last year for which the top charge was marijuana possession in the 5th degree – a class B misdemeanor. Of those charged, 85 percent were either Black or Hispanic. Ninety-six percent were arrested specifically for possessing marijuana in a manner that was open to public view.

Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.

In 2010 and 2011, New York City police made approximately 50,000 annual marijuana arrests, often following result of stop-and-frisk encounters. Annual arrests fell between the years 2012 and 2015 before rising again last year.

Legislation is pending in the New York state Senate and Assembly to eliminate the ‘public view’ loophole – a legislative fix that is endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

For more information, please contact NORML Political Director Justin Strekal at (202) 483-5500.