Drug War

Imagine How Much They'd Spend on Pot Busts If Marijuana Possession Hadn't Been Decriminalized

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A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance estimates that New York City spends $75 million a year to arrest people for marijuana possession, even though possession of up to 25 grams (about nine-tenths of an ounce) is not an arrestable offense in New York state. The report's authors, Queens College sociologist Harry Levine and drug policy researcher Loren Siegel (formerly with the ACLU), note that "carrying a small amount of marijuana in a pocket, backpack or purse…is not a crime" in New York. It is a citable offense, similar to a traffic violation, punishable by a $100 fine. But as Levine has shown, police in New York City routinely trick people (overwhelmingly young blacks and Hispanics) into taking out their marijuana and exposing it to "public view," which converts a citable offense into a misdemeanor. "From 1997 through 2010," Levine and Siegel report, "the NYPD made 536,000 arrests for marijuana possession." This little-noticed crackdown on pot smokers, they estimate based on conservative assumptions, has cost taxpayers between $500 million and $1 billion. That's on top of "the serious human costs and consequences," which include not only the inconvenience and humiliation of the arrest and time spent in jail but permanent criminal records that can be a lifelong handicap.

Go here for more on Levine's studies of marijuana arrests in New York and California.

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  1. I can’t understand while so many people hate cops. I’m sure it’s just a few bad apples made those 536,000 arrests. A few very, very, very busy apples. One or two at most.

    1. Goddamn mother fuckers!

  2. Thank God NYC is so sophisticated and cosmopolitan and tolerant and shit.

    1. Grats NYC, you remind me of Mobile, Alabama.

  3. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but it sure is helpful to police.

  4. Police trick people?

    No way!

    I thought police were honest and upstanding men and women sworn to serve and protect.
    That’s what they told me in public schools anyway.

    They lied!

  5. NYC is probably the best example of the bullshit premise behind “decriminalization”. Yes, it’s preferable to strict prohibition — but not by much.

  6. Hey, I’ll bet my dick is bigger than yours. How ’bout we whip ’em out in 1, 2, 3!

  7. Teach a man only to hammer, and everything needs hammering.
    Give a man a promotion for making arrests, and everybody needs arresting.

  8. (overwhelmingly young blacks and Hispanics)

    …Wait.

    I’ve never seen a chart where DC and NYC didn’t rank first and second in race-disproportionate arrest rates, but every time I see a headline here about a racist police outrage, it’s all “-tucky” and “-issippi.”
    I want to love the Kochtopus, because it is life, but I don’t understand what it wants from me.

    1. I’ve never seen a chart that tracks that. Who does that sort of research? Pew?

  9. I do not get why the word has not gotten around in the stoner community to not take your pot out of your pocket.

    1. It’s not the stoner community, it’s everyone. Why does anybody, anywhere consent to any police search?

  10. But as Levine has shown, police in New York City routinely trick people (overwhelmingly young blacks and Hispanics) into taking out their marijuana and exposing it to “public view,” which converts a citable offense into a misdemeanor. “From 1997 through 2010,” Levine and Siegel report, “the NYPD made 536,000 arrests for marijuana possession.

    Cops are an interesting group. I mean, run with me for a second.

    I’m in IT. Over the course of any job, an IT person of varying stripes will be required to ‘support’ (give attention to) various systems. The goal of any IT person is to constantly be looking at ways to reduce the the amount of attention he/she must provide to various systems, freeing himself up for the more important, central tasks. If we look at this analagously with cops, here we have a situation where cops have been given an opportunity to turn their attention away from the pettiest of petty crimes and give their attention the more serious (central) matters at hand.

    This situation with the NYPD would be the equivalent of one of my PC techs demanding that he continue to troubleshoot and manually remove spyware from an infected PC, instead of just reimaging it and moving on.

    Why? WHY I ask you… WHY?!! As a copy, I couldn’t imagine the joy I’d feel if my captain said, “Just let the fucking marijuana busts go.. let’s focus on the rapists, the robbers and the muggers…”

    1. But catching rapists, robbers and muggers is sooo haaard.

      1. They shoot back too.

    2. Police influence isn’t limited in its expansion by questions of funding, competition, or competence the way IT is. Functionally, the police have resources without limits, so they have no incentive to reduce the problems they have to address.

  11. “as a copy” should read “as a cop”

    When’s that preview button coming, Reason?

  12. I have a question:

    Why is it a misdemeanor to have it in public view? Its the same pot, but it is magically converted from non-criminal to criminal if you take it out of your pocket?

    Since we clearly aren’t going to get a smart, competent, humane police force, the solution seems to be to get rid of the misdemeanor.

    1. I’m guessing it’s the same line of thought that makes it illegal for me to drink whisky while walking down the street, but perfectly legal for me to drink it in my house or in a bar?

  13. Over the course of any job, an IT person of varying stripes will be required to ‘support’ (give attention to) various systems. The goal of any IT person is to constantly be looking at ways to reduce the the amount of attention he/she must provide to various systems, freeing himself up for the more important, central tasks.

    An excellent description of how how I view my job as in-house counsel.

    Plus, I “incentive” people to actually use the tools I give them to manage their own risks and service lines by being very unpleasant to deal with.

  14. Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators for using a little marijuana. None of us would want to see our parent’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants to ease the aches and pains of growing older. It’s time to stop putting our own families in jail. It’s time to let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards, and it’s nice to see our culture coming to terms with this in a more wholesome fashion. This will go a long way toward putting the criminal drug gangs out of business for good!

    1. Psssst…there is no Jesus, or God, or any of that shit. It has nothing to do with any of this anyway. Drug prohibition is exactly as wrong with or without religion.

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