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.

Oh, NYPD, don't ever change. You're perfect just the way you are: corrupt, racist, and brutal.

Tags Marijuana

Commentarium (5 Comments)

Feb 09 12 - 5:57pm
Zachary 88

Not to be the buzz kill here but remember when NYC came out of its crime binge in the 90's? When cops were sweeping through the city harassing everyone for misdemeanor crimes and jumping subway turnstalls. Then the crime rate for deadly assaults, rapes, and muggings went down as well. Police presence is just one of those ways that help keep the rest of us safe. They're not looking for little bags of weed on people, they're using those random frisks to find weapons or harder drugs. And sorry their targeting a disproportionate amount of young blacks and latinos, but I hate to break the bad news to you, young black and latino males make up a disproportionate amount of the crime based on population statistics. You can call it racist or you can look at it as using our statistics to focus help where it needs to go. Either way it keeps the law abiding people safer.

Feb 09 12 - 6:51pm

Wow, Zachary 88, you seem to conveniently gloss over the part where the article says that cops use their authority to stop someone, make them expose the contents of their pockets and then charge them with openly displaying drugs. That sounds pretty unconstitutional to me. How you can assume they're not looking for little bags of weed despite the fact that they're arresting all these people for those little bags of weed seems is odd to me, too.

The vibe I'm getting from the article isn't that more minority men than white men are being found with drugs on these random stop and frisks, it's that the police are stopping and frisking more minorities than anyone else, a likely Equal Protection violation. The fact that the effing Police Commissioner cannot even pretend to know what number of the arrests were proper is a pretty bad sign, right? So no offense to you but I'm going to take you up on the offer to call this racist - this shit's pretty damn racist.

Feb 10 12 - 1:00am

If its just based on race and not crime stats, how come they keep finding drugs?

Mar 11 12 - 4:19am
steven sanchez

Do I have the right to sue? This very thing just happened to me. I just came home after five hours in the precinct. I was just walking to rite aid at 7:45 so I could catch them before they close at 8PM, when I noticed a cop car pass me while I was coming out of the projects from my friends house where i am staying for the weekend as my supposedly "ready" apartment that I paid the first 1 and a half months rent and security had some works still to be done. So okay I cross through the projects and a cop car passes me on the street. I didn't think nothing of it, but then about two blocks later, I'm assuming the same cop car stopped me on the street. I immediately threw my hands out in the air where they could seeand even lifted up my hat so they could see there was nothing there. Then the cop in the passeneger seat asked where I was going so I immediately said "I'm trying to catch rite aid before they close", which was only about 300 feet away now. While I was saying this, the officer in the back seat and the driver had already started coming out the car, even though I posed no threat and was just walking, the same officer then asked me if I had anything on me that they should know about to which I replied "well I think but I'm not sure, but there miht be a bag in my pocket. And he said which pocket and ii looked towards my jeans pocket and said "in my jeans". I really wasn't sure if I had the bag or not so then they started frisking me and asking if that was all I had. I told them yeah and after they didn't find anything to my shock they threw the handcuffs on me. I was like for real for one bag of weed when I was just walking to the pharmacy? You have got to be kidding. But five hours later I realized it was not a joke at all. I am 33 years old and have not been arrested since 1995 when I was 16 and I got caught making out with a girl on a rooftop in queens.those are my only two arrests. Ever. And this is the same very precinct that shot down amadoo diallo what was it 43 times?

Jun 12 12 - 10:13pm

Newyork should not care about marijuana anymore i wish i could get that medical marijuana it whould help newyork you know a bailout and it may even help pepole like me who is living in newyork and by doctors is even 180 painkillers 240 pills for my nerve damage and 30 muscle relaxers every month vs other states allow it, get bailed out and from what i read it works for pepole like me,so now if they allow it there will be less crime they call having a bag of pot a crime so thats what i mean by crime it will also stop the dealer from selling then they can focuss on bigger thing