Ending the Marijuana Arrest Crusade in NYC
NY Senate Republicans Oppose Legislation Supported by Law Enforcement in NYC and from Around the State
On June 4th 2012, our campaign was heard at the highest levels of NY government when Governor Cuomo called a press conference to introduce legislation to end unlawful marijuana arrests in New York. The Governor’s legislation has some surprising supporters, including NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, NYPD Police Commissioner and all five NYC District Attorneys, in addition to law enforcement from all over New York State.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the Governor and advocates from around the state, NY State Legislature failed to pass the Governor’s proposal because of the political posturing of NY Senate Republicans. DPA and its allies vow to continue the fight to end the racially biased, costly, and unconstitutional arrests for marijuana possession in public view.
Although the legislation didn’t pass this year, the New York City Council overwhelming passed Resolution 986-A, introduced by Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Oliver Koppell, which supports the marijuana arrest reform legislation in Albany and condemns the unlawful police practices in NYC.
Click here and watch personal video testimonials to learn about how the NYPD exploits New York law to arrest 50,000 people every year, falsely charging and arresting them for marijuana possession.
NYPD Not Complying With Order to Stop Wrongful Marijuana Charges
In September 2011, our campaign reached an apparent breakthrough when NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an internal directive ordering police to follow the law. The order prohibited police from making arrests for marijuana possession in "public view" when the person was compelled by an officer to display marijuana in public. This tacit admission that police have been routinely breaking the law means that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have been illegally arrested and falsely charged over the last 15 years. If properly followed, this operations order could lead to the reduction of tens of thousands of marijuana arrests every year. However, the NYPD are not following the directive. In fact, the number of marijuana arrests in 2011 increased from the near-record total in 2010.
At the request of Governor Cuomo, Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries introduced legislation, A.10581, a bill that would prevent officers from using a loophole in New York’s decriminalization law to arrest tens of thousands of New Yorkers every year and standardize marijuana possession offenses in New York.
Similar legislation has been introduced for the last two years by Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) introduced bi-partisan legislation, A7620/S5187, that would.
In 1977, New York State decriminalized possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana, making it a non-criminal violation punishable by a $100 fine, like a traffic ticket. “Possessing or burning marijuana in public view,” however, is a criminal misdemeanor offense. The police either trick people into publicly revealing marijuana concealed in a pocket or handbag by demanding they “empty their pockets” – or the police simply illegally search them – and then falsely charge and arrest them for public view or burning even when the marijuana was concealed. In 2011, the NYPD used this loophole to arrest 50,684 people – mostly young people of color – for misdemeanor marijuana possession, making marijuana possession the number one arrest in NYC.
New York’s mass marijuana arrests are a relatively recent phenomenon. In the mid-1990s, NYPD changed its practices to prioritize arrests for low-level offenses, like marijuana possession. Every year, more and more people are arrested for this offense: more people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2011 alone than the total number of such arrests from 1981-1995.
These marijuana possession arrests cost taxpayers $75 million a year. Nearly 70 percent of those arrested are under 30 years old, and most are under 21 years old. Eighty-four percent of those arrested are black and Latino, even though whites use marijuana at higher rates.
A marijuana arrest is no small matter – most people are handcuffed, placed in a police car, taken to a police station, fingerprinted and photographed, held in jail for 24 hours or more, and then arraigned before a judge. The arrest creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be found on the Internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards and banks.
Since Mike Bloomberg became mayor ten years ago, the NYPD has made over 400,000 lowest-level marijuana possession arrests, at a cost of at least $600 million dollars. In fact, in just the last 5 years under Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD has made more arrests than under the last three mayors – whose combined terms lasted 24 years.
If you are interested in hosting a Know Your Rights training in your area, click here to download the request form, or send an email to chino [at] ijjra [dot] org.
- Marijuana Arrests in NY Fact Sheet: Fiscally Irresponsible, Racially Biased and Unconstitutional
- Marijuana Arrests in NYC: Fact Sheet
- What Would Your Group Do With $75 Million?
- Marijuana Arrest Reform Quarter Cards
- Poster: Marijuana Arrests Are Not a Game
- NY Legislation close the loophole: A.10581 (Jeffries)
- NYPD Operations Order
- NYC City Council Resolution
- $75 Million a Year: The Cost of New York City's Marijuana Possession Arrests
- Pot as Pretext: Marijuana, Race and the New Disorder in New York City Street Policing
- Marijuana in New York: Arrests, Usage, and Related Data
- New York City's Marijuana Arrest Crusade...Continues
- Marijuana Arrest Crusade, Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York City: 1997-2007
- An Analysis of Alternatives to New York City's Current Marijuana Arrest and Detention Policy
- Testimony by Professor Harry G. Levine Regarding Marijuana Arrests in New York City
- The Marijuana Arrest Problem, Continued
- Marijuana Plan Appears Doomed in Albany
- Gov. Cuomo says Republicans sink to ‘new low’ over fight to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana
- Gov. Cuomo proposes to decriminalize small-quantity marijuana possession
- Protesters push GOP on marijuana law
- New Study by Bronx Public Defenders Claims NYPD Cops Made Hundreds of Unlawful Marijuana Arrests
- Examining Marijuana Arrests – New York Times
- Crowd Marches To Bloomberg's House To Protest Pot War
Free Trainings in New York City
The Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives (IJJRA), and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) are offering "Know Your Rights, Build Your Future", a 2-part training for New York City's youth and adults!
At the training, you will learn:
- About your rights during a police encounter
- How to understand stop-and-frisk
- What we can do together to build community justice and safety
Download the request form here if you are interested in hosting a Know Your Rights training in your area.