On the heels of the announcement that the Republicans had slayed the Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly-endorsed bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, the Legal Aid Society has filed a lawsuit against the city and the NYPD for ignoring Commissioner Kelly's order last September to police officers to stop making misdemeanor arrests for small quantities of marijuana hidden from public view during stop-and-frisks.
The lawsuit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday, alleges that police officers are still charging New Yorkers with misdemeanors when finding them in possession of small amounts of hidden marijuana; while arrests on the lowest-level marijuana charges (possession of less than 25 grams in public view) dropped considerably right after Kelly's order was made last fall, they have since continued to climb. In March 2012, 4,186 arrests were made, as compared to 4,189 arrests in August 2011, and the defendants were typically men of color.
Kelly's order had fallen in line with a 1977 city law decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana hidden from public view; however, officers were allegedly forcing New Yorkers they had stopped to bring small quantities of the drug out of hidden areas, making them open to arrest. Friday's suit was brought on by five New Yorkers who, since mid-April, were forced to bring small quantities of marijuana hidden in their backpacks or pockets into public view upon being subject to an NYPD stop-and-frisk. They were all subsequently arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession. "The police…repeatedly failed, and continue to fail to follow the law," the 28 page lawsuit reads. "And as a result, subject these individuals to the full arrest process, with all of its direct and collateral negative consequences."
When we asked NYPD officers about Kelly's order during our trip to the stop-and-frisk training facility this week, they told us that officers weren't being trained to incorporate it. Meanwhile, New York remains the number one city to get arrested for low-level pot possession, but medical marijuana is totally legal in Greenwich.