New York City: Pot Arrests For 2009 Second Highest Total Ever

City police made over 46,000 arrests in 2009 for marijuana possession in public, according to statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and analyzed by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine.

The annual arrest total is the second highest in the city’s history, and is up over 4,600 percent from 1990, when police reported fewer than 1,000 pot arrests.

New York city police made 46,400 lowest level marijuana possession arrests [NY State Penal Law 221.10] involving cases where marijuana was either used or possessed in public. Of those arrested, 54 percent were African American, 33 percent were Hispanic, and only ten percent were Caucasian.

African-Americans and Hispanics together comprise approximately half of the city’s population.

Commenting on the racial disparity in arrests rates, Levine said, “Police arrested blacks for pot possession at seven times the rate of whites, and Latinos at four times the rate of whites.”

Levine further noted 90 percent of those arrested were male, and most offenders were under 26-years-old. In all of the arrests, marijuana possession was the most serious reported charge or the only one.

Although simple marijuana possession is a violation and not a crime in New York State, if the marijuana is “open to public view” it can be charged as a misdemeanor. According to a 2008 study by Harry Levine and Deborah Small and released by the New York Civil Liberties Union, police have made some 400,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests over the past decade.

Said Levine: “Every year since 1997 police in New York City have been intimidating and tricking tens of thousands of young people to take out their marijuana and to hand it over. When the young people do so they are handcuffed, arrested and usually spend 24 hours in the city’s jails.”

The NYCLU study estimated that marijuana arrests in New York City cost taxpayers between $50 million and $90 million annually.

– Article from NORML on April 2, 2010.