Chances are you probably smoke pot, you are probably smoking it right now...at least according to the latest reports, which say that "the number of people arrested for small amounts of marijuana in New York City has increased tenfold in the past decade."
More people get arrested for misdemeanor pot possession in our city than in any other U.S. city (the figure comes to about 97 arrests per day). The New York Civil Liberties Union released the report this week, which they based on government stats, interviews with those arrested for holding pot, their lawyers, and law enforcement officials.
The report said the stop-and-frisk policy allows the police to make misdemeanor arrests, which produce higher crime-fighting statistics, rather than simply write them up as violations, which carry penalties similar to traffic infractions.
“The penalty for having seven-eighths of an ounce of marijuana or less in your pocket is the same as that for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk,” said an author of the report, Prof. Harry G. Levine, a sociologist at Queens College.
But in fact, instead of a $100 fine and a violation charge, police are coaxing people to bring the marijuana into public view by requesting that they hand over anything they are “not supposed to have,” the report says. It then becomes “burning or open to public view” and therefore a misdemeanor.
That isn't all, the reports are also showing that the NYPD are weeding out Blacks and Latinos, with more than half those arrested being black, and 31% being Hispanic.
A NYPD spokesperson said the system the NYCLU used to cull its numbers is flawed, but many are still taking note, especially since the NYPD itself is criticized for pressuring people into searches and stop-and-frisks (police commish Kelly denies using racial profiling). The NYPD spokesperson denies the report all-together, calling the NYCLU's numbers "absurdly inflated".
The NYPD claims there were only 8,770 marijuana violations during the years 1997 to 2006. But the NYCLU is standing firm by their report, saying that in those years "205,000 blacks, 122,000 Latinos and 59,000 whites for possessing small amounts of marijuana."
Finally, the report urges policymakers to make some changes:
- Hold public hearings and thoroughly examine the costs, consequences, and racial, gender, age and class disparities of the NYPD’s marijuana arrest practices.
- Ensure that law enforcement of marijuana offenses is consistent with the intent of New York State law.
- Substantially increase the pay scale of police officers to reduce the need for overtime.
- Require the NYPD to provide the City Council and state detailed, accurate and timely data on its arrests, citations and other practices, and make that information public.