Monitoring marijuana arrests

For years, this page has expressed concerns about the NYPD’s aggressive stop and frisk practices that disproportionately affect Latino and African American men.

Most arrests in New York City stem from minor possession of marijuana – even though the State decriminalized privately carrying 25 grams or less in 1977.

Last week Commissioner Kelly reminded his officers that arresting people with small amounts of marijuana after they have been requested to empty their bags and pockets is not legal.

This is an important move.

Under New York law, posession of small amounts of marijuana constitutes a minor violation that carries a $100 fine. It becomes a misdemeanor punishable with up to three months in jail and a $500 fine when the drug is in public view. But when an officer requests detainees to reveal however little marijuana they carry, it becomes visible and they thus become subject to charges.

Between 66% and 75% of people arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana displayed it at an officer’s request, a sociologist at Queens College told the New York Times.

To correct this dangerous discrepancy, Kelly sent a long overdue reminder.

Last year, around 50,000 people were arrested on marijuana possession. Many of them were Latino or African American, although statistically whites use more marijuana than both these groups.

Police racial profiling in street stops has left too many low income minority men entangled in the criminal justice system and saddled with a record that leaves them with even fewer opportunities.

We strongly believe the NYPD should change its approach so that our police officers focus on combating more serious crimes.

The State and Federal governments must intervene and investigate arrests in New York City to ensure our Police practices improve, and people’s rights are respected.