In the last decade, marijuana busts have skyrocketed in New York City. Nearly 40,000 people a year are arrested for low-level marijuana-related crime. What's with the large numbers? Well, despite the fact that pot was actually decriminalized in the state over thirty-five years ago, New York City police officers have taken to using loopholes in the system to make probably illegal arrests.
The Marijuana Reform Act of 1977 made possession of up to twenty-five grams of weed a small offense. If you're caught with a small-ish bag on you, you pay a fine and go on your merry way. However, if the pot is "burning or open to public display," it becomes a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail. Allegedly, officers have been stopping people, asking them to reveal any contraband (which will occasionally yield pot), and then charging them with the misdemeanor, even though there were coerced into making the pot "open to public display."
If that doesn't harsh your mellow, a disproportionate number of the wrongfully accused have been young black and Latino men, regardless of the fact that they're less likely to smoke than young white men.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has suggested that a large number of the arrests are a result of smokers flagrantly showing off their bud to officers, though he later states that it is "very difficult to quantify" how many of these busts are legitimate. On that note, a large amount of the arrests are attributed to the NYPD's "stop and frisk" program, which is when the cops stop someone and, well, frisk them. These arrests occur largely in — you guessed it — primarily black and Latino areas.