Raymond Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner, has given his officers an order they’re reportedly ignoring. As a result, the city continues to spend millions of dollars arresting citizens for possessing small amounts of marijuana — and many New York citizens are calling for change.
The law is being ignored
Under New York state law, those possessing 25g-or-less of marijuana are no longer to be criminalized, and people in violation should only get a fine. The person can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, only if the pot is burning or displayed in public view.
But according to an NYC survey, police officers are having citizens take the marijuana out of their pockets or hiding places, then arresting and charging them for publicly display. This “stop and frisk” policy goes against Chief Kelly’s order, and it has many New Yorkers riled up. “For our clients, it’s very disheartening to see the disconnect between what they’re seeing reported in the news about the Kelly order and what they’re actually experiencing on a daily basis — the behavior that they actually see from police officers in their neighborhood,” Scott Levy, who heads the “Marijuana Arrest Project”, said. (1)
The Marijuana Arrest Project
The Marijuana Arrest Project is the name given to a survey by the Bronx Defenders, a public defender organization in the South Bronx. This group concluded that they found “clear constitutional and evidentiary problems stemming primarily from unconstitutional searches and seizures and improper charging of clients by the NYPD.” (1) Attorney Scott Levy summarized their findings: “This is clearly an illegal practice. And the fact that it hasn’t stopped since Commissioner Kelly issued his memo, suggests there is a deep disconnect between what happens on the street and what the top brass in the NYPD are saying happens.” (2)
Is Bloomberg just wasting millions?
New York has been called the marijuana arrest capital of the world. Activists are concerned about the effect these arrests have on our young people. The majority of people targeted by these kinds of police searches are young black or Latino men, and arrest for these individuals means a criminal record and jail time for youth already at risk for a life of crime.
Rather than put them in jail, give them a fine and put them back on the streets, many citizens are calling for effective action. “Bloomberg is doing more than wasting $75 million a year on marijuana arrests, he is wasting the future our youth,” said Chino Hardin, of the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives. “We don’t want kids using drugs, so why not put money into real programs that will help them make better choices, not give forever lasting criminal records.” (3)