The NYPD made more than 50,680 arrests for low-level marijuana offenses in 2011, once again making low-level pot possession the number one cause of arrest in NYC. 2011 was the second-highest period for marijuana arrests in New York City history, and this despite NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly specifically ordering officers to stop arresting people who bring small quantities of marijuana into open view during a stop-and-frisk. In a September memo, Kelly told officers, "A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana." Unfortunately, most hippies were too stoned to read all the way the bottom of the memo, where Kelly included a photo of himself winking slyly.

Since 1977, marijuana possession in New York State has been decriminalized for amounts of 25 grams or less, as long as it's not in public view. But the NYPD, especially under Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, has widely disregarded this law, and the department's stop-and-frisk policy has been instrumental in driving up the numbers of pot possession arrests. In the last decade, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost of $600 million dollars, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos.

State Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D, WFP - Brooklyn) have introduced a bill in Albany that would standardize penalties for marijuana possession in New York make police practice conform to the original legislative intent. "The continued marijuana arrest explosion is unfair, unjust and unconscionable," says Jeffries. "It wastes millions of taxpayer dollars and needlessly ruins the lives of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. This strategy does not make us safer, and the administration's failure to change course means that the state legislature must once again step in to restore sanity."


Regarding Kelly's directive to officers, Council Member Jumaane Williams says, "This data shows that Commissioner Kelly's memorandum is not being enforced. For instance, the 240% increase in arrests in the last week of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010 is highly troubling. It also seems that much of this rise is occurring in police precincts which cover communities of more color, such as the 67th and the 70th in my district. What these statistics prove is that legislative action is needed to codify the memorandum once and for all."

But until that happens, you probably want to light your spliff safely behind closed doors in your private residence, man. Just put a towel down so the cops don't kick the door in.