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New York: NYC Marijuana Possession Arrests Drop Under 17K; First Time Since '96


67% Drop from 51,000 Arrests in 2011

Still A Tale of Two Cities: Young Black and Latino People Arrested at Higher Rates, Despite Young White People Using Marijuana at Higher Rates

According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996. The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42 percent decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67 percent drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.

“New York is finally starting to shed its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Over the last twenty years, more than 700,000 lives were irrevocably harmed by our draconian marijuana arrest policies. We must repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers.”

In 2015, with the continuous advocacy of community members, advocates, and elected officials – the New York Police Department made 16,590 arrests for low level marijuana possession, down from a high of 26,386 in 2014. This continues a four year trend of declining marijuana possession arrest by the NYPD.

New York: de Blasio Administration To Make Reforms To Non-Criminal Summons System


Common Sense Changes Will Make Summons System Easier to Navigate and More Transparent, and Will Allow City to Track and Address Racial Disparities

Changes Announced After Months of Negotiations with Community and Advocacy Groups

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) on Tuesday announced plans to revise parts of the NYC Summons process. The announcement comes after advocates voiced key questions and concerns about Mayor de Blasio’s announcement last November that individuals would receive summonses instead of being arrested for low level marijuana possession in public view.

Advocates expressed concerns about the overburdened and complex summons court system, biased police practices, collateral consequences of summonses, and lack of data transparency. The plan announced on Tuesday includes a new NYPD summons form, website, and automated call-in system to help New Yorkers more easily navigate the NYC Summons court system.

In an October 2014 report, Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor De Blasio’s Two New Yorks: The NYPD Marijuana Arrests Crusade Continues in 2014, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance noted the de Blasio Administration was on track to meet or surpass the Bloomberg 2013 marijuana arrests. Following the report’s release, the de Blasio Administration announced that New Yorkers found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.

New York: Mayor, Police Commissioner Giving Mixed Signals On Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in New York City, one of his leading initiatives was responding to possession of small amounts of marijuana with summonses rather than arrests. At the news conference announcing the change -- which affected possession cases involving up to 25 grams of weed -- NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton stood beside the mayor, holding up a bag of oregano measuring 25 grams, as an educational prop for how much pot is allowable.

Last week, this time without the mayor, Commissioner Bratton turned his attention once again to marijuana, report J. David Goodman and Matt Flegenheimer at the New York Times. Bratton announced homicides were up to 54 through March 1, compared with 45 over the same period last year, as were shootings -- and he claimed marijuana was a factor in the violence.

"The seemingly innocent drug that's being legalized around the country -- in this city, people are killing each other over marijuana," Bratton dramatically announced.

But does the commissioner's sharp turn towards reefer madness territory indicate a schism in the de Blasio administration's approach to cannabis? The mayor said he supports the new policy regarding low-level marijuana possession, voicing concerns that arrests for small amounts of pot disproportionately affect the black and Hispanic communities.

New York: Advocates Call NYPD's Statement Linking Marijuana and Shootings 'Reefer Madness'


Drug Policy Alliance: The Real Way to Address Violence Related to Marijuana is through Legalizing and Regulating It

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton this week gave a press conference about the rising number of shootings in NYC. Incredibly, Bratton went on to blame marijuana, of all things, for the increase in violence.

“Commissioner Bratton’s claims today about marijuana are straight out of the tired old drug war handbook and frankly, are ridiculous," said gabriel sayegh, managing director of policy and campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "What evidence is Bratton relying on in making these statements? Hasn’t he heard that correlation does not equal causation?

"Marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance in the U.S. and in New York and, therefore, is far more likely to be found on New Yorkers than any other drug," sayegh said. "It appears that finding marijuana on the scene of a violent crime is enough for Bratton to assert a causal link.

"Using that rationale, we can make other causal links to violence – for instance, if police find a cell phone at the scene of a violent crime, then certainly the cell phone must cause that crime," sayegh said.

New York: NYPD Poised To Stop Low-Level Marijuana Possession Arrests


Individuals Would Instead be Ticketed and Ordered to Court

Advocates Cautiously Optimistic, But Key Questions and Concerns Remain

An article on the front page of Monday's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.

This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket.

California: Retired Police Chief Who Fought To End The Drug War Dies At 79


San Jose's Joseph McNamara Leaves Behind a Remarkable Legacy of Public Service and Activism

Retired police chief Joseph McNamara, who fought to end the War On Drugs, died on Friday, September 19 at the age of 79. His 35-year law enforcement career began in 1956 as a beat cop for the New York City Police Department.

He would later become a criminal justice fellow at Harvard, where he focused on criminal justice research and methodology. During this time McNamara took leave from police work to obtain a doctorate in Public Administration, and was appointed deputy inspector of crime analysis in New York City upon his return.

McNamara spoke out publicly against the Drug War long before the issue had come to the political forefront. He was a speaker and advisory board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the War On Drugs.

“When you’re telling cops that they’re soldiers in a Drug War, you’re destroying the whole concept of the citizen peace officer, a peace officer whose fundamental duty is to protect life and be a community servant,” McNamara said at a presentation for the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform in 1995.

New York: Brooklyn DA Won't Pursue Low-Level Marijuana Arrests


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Brooklyn district attorney's office on Tuesday announced that it will immediately stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases. The policy change comes after months of resistance from the New York Police Department.

"This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders," DA Kenneth P. Thompson said in a release.

Those caught with under 25 grams of pot will have their cases dismissed prior to arraignment, which has been happening more and more often anyway, reports Christopher Robbins at Gothamist. "Given that these cases are ultimately—and predictably—dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit," Thompson said.

The change was proposed in a confidential memo in April, report Stephanie Clifford and Joseph Goldstein at The New York Times, but was delayed as police officials resisted the efforts of prosecutors to convince them to enter the 21st century.

New York: Elected Officials, Community Groups Announce Legislation To End Racist Marijuana Arrests


Comprehensive Legislation would also Address Racial Bias, Collateral Consequences, and Fix Loopholes in NY Marijuana Laws

Despite Dramatic Drop in Stop and Frisk, NYPD on Track to Arrest as Many People in 2014 as Previous Year... and Racial Disparities Persist

Elected officials, community members and the coalition, New Yorkers for Public Health & Safety, will rally on Wednesday, July 9, on the Steps of New York City Hall, to call for comprehensive reform to address racially biased marijuana arrests and devastating collateral consequences.

Last year, there were nearly 30,000 marijuana possession arrests in New York City alone. Based on first-quarter data obtained from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, the NYPD is now on track to make nearly as many marijuana possession arrests in 2014 as it did in 2013, with similarly shocking racial disparities.

Proposals to fix New York’s marijuana possession law have stalled in Albany the past few years. With the continued staggering racial disparities and Governor Cuomo’s recommitment to ending marijuana arrests, Assembly member Camara and Senator Squadron along with community members and advocates are calling for reforms that not only end racially bias marijuana arrests but also address the racial bias in the NY criminal justice system and deal with the devastating collateral consequences of these racially biased arrests.

What Does the Fairness and Equity Act Do?

New York: 80 Marijuana Possession Arrests A Day In First 4 Months of 2014 - More of the Same


According to the latest numbers from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, in the first four months of 2014, the NYPD under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton arrested an average of 80 people a day for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

This is virtually the same as the NYPD's average of 78 marijuana possession arrests a day in all of 2013 under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly.

The most recent data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) shows that marijuana arrest patterns in the first four months of 2014 under de Blasio and Bratton are indistinguishable from those of their predecessors in 2013.

See graphs and this release online at:

In 2013 blacks and Latinos were 87 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession.
In the first four months of 2014, blacks and Latinos were 86 percent of the people arrested.

In 2013 teenagers between 16 and 20 were 29 percent of the people arrested.
So far in 2014 teens are also 29 percent of arrestees.

In 2013 young people between ages 21 and 25 were 27 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession, exactly the same as in the first third of 2014.

In 2013 people between the ages of 26 and 29 were 12 percent of those arrested.
In the first four months of 2014 they were 13 percent of those arrested.

In 2013, young people between the ages of 16 and 34 comprised 78 percent of all people arrested for simple marijuana possession.

New York: NYPD Making As Many Marijuana Arrests In 2014 As Last Year


Extreme Racial Disparities Persist: 86% of Arrests are Young Black and Latino Men, Even Though Young White Men Use Marijuana At Higher Rates

Analysis: Significant Drop in Stop-and-Frisk Does Not End Marijuana Possession Arrests; Advocates Call for Focused Plan to End Biased Arrests

The Marijuana Arrest Research Project on Friday released data showing that racially bias marijuana arrests continue to be one of the leading arrests in New York City, despite the precipitous drop in stop and frisks.

In March 2014, the NYPD under Mayor Bill de Blasio made more marijuana possession arrests than almost every other month in 2013 under Bloomberg and Kelly. New York City's marijuana possession arrests in the first quarter of 2014 are higher than in the third and fourth quarters of 2013, with identical racial disparities.

As illustrated in graphs by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, approximately 86 percent of those arrested are Black and Latino – mostly young men -- despite government studies show that young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Indeed, if this trend continues, NYPD could make as many or more marijuana arrests in 2014 as they did in 2013.

New York: Federal Judge Rules Stop-and-Frisk Policy Unconstitutional


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The controversial "stop-and-frisk" tactics of the New York Police Department violate constitutional rights and must be changed, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

The ruling, from Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, results from a class-action lawsuit alleging that NYPD officers routinely stop minority men, particularly blacks and Latinos, without legally defensible reasons, reports CNN.

An outside monitor will be appointed to oversee changes to the NYPD policy, Judge Scheindlin said.

The police had claimed the controversial policy -- in which police stop, question and search people they consider "suspicious" -- helps to deter crime, but the practice is widely criticized, especially because of its use primarily against minorities.

The lead plaintiff in the case is medical student David Floyd, who was stopped twice, once in the middle of the afternoon in front of his Bronx home, according to the 2008 lawsuit.

The trial, featuring nine weeks of testimony, ended in May. It featured testimony both from police officers who say quotas "forced" them to make unnecessary stops, and from men who say police stopped them for no reason.

While attorneys for New York City claimed that one man was stopped because he "appeared to be smoking marijuana," the plaintiffs' attorneys argued that he was simply talking on a cell phone.

New York: Actress Amanda Bynes Arrested on Marijuana Charge


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former Nickelodeon child star Amanda Bynes was arrested Thursday evening in New York City, charged with tampering with physical evidence, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of marijuana. Building officials at her apartment called police to commplain she was rolling and smoking a joint in the lobby.

"There was a 911 call at her apartment building that someone was smoking marijuana in the lobby," NYPD spokesman Det. Brian Sessa told ABC News. Once police arrived, a building official took them upstairs to Bynes' apartment and she let them inside, according to Sessa.

"There was a heavy smell of marijuana," Sessa claimed. "[Then] she took the bong and threw it out the window."

She then told police "It was just a vase," according to Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Chikaelo Ibeabuchi, reports Colleen Long of The Associated Press.

"My client completely denies illegally throwing anything out of her window," said Andrew Friedman, Bynes' attorney for the arraignment.

The alleged bong has not been recovered form the street 36 floors below, the NYPD had to admit.

Bynes appeared disheveled in a long blond wig and sweats Friday in criminal court, where the judge released her on her own recognizance and gave her a July 9 court date.

New York: Big Apple Marijuana Arrests To Drop 20% In 2013

(Photo: The L Magazine)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The New York Legislature decriminalized marijuana in that state back in the 1970s. But simple marijuana possession is still the #1 cause of arrest in New York City, with 149,951 pot busts last year. What gives?

NYPD cops use the "public view" exception to the decrim law to trap people, that's what. Officers will misleadingly ask a suspect to "take the pot out of your pocket," and then bust them for "public display" of the weed, which ups what would have been a traffic ticket-like event into a violation with arrest and possible jail time.

More and more civil rights activists have noticed this disturbing phenomenon, and the NYPD is increasingly coming under pressure to stop its dishonest tactics when it comes to busting pot smokers. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried last year to remove the "public view" provision in the criminal code last year, reports John Surico at the Village Voice, and even NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has asked his officers to back off with the pot arrests, already.

Happily, it seems this is finally starting to have an impact, 35 years after decrim.

New York: New Report Shows NYPD Spent 1 Million Hours Making Marijuana Arrests

Photo: The L MagazineBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New Report: “One Million Police Hours: Making 440,000 Marijuana Possession Arrests in New York City, 2002-2012”

NYC Has Dubious Distinction of “Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World”; Majority of Those Arrested Are Black and Latino Youth

Report Released As State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus Makes Final Push to Pass Marijuana Reform Proposal This Week

A new report released on Tuesday documents the astonishing number of hours the New York Police Department has spent arresting and processing hundreds of thousands of people for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure. The report finds that NYPD used approximately one million hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over 11 years.

These, of course, are hours that police officers might have otherwise have spent investigating and solving serious crimes.

The report was prepared by Dr. Harry Levine, Professor of Sociology at Queens College and recognized expert on marijuana possession arrests, at the request of members of the New York City Council and the New York State Legislature.

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