New York City Is Hell for Pot Smokers

New York City Is Hell for Pot Smokers
Posted by CN Staff on March 31, 2007 at 14:52:56 PT
By Paul Armentano, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet
New York -- If you toke in the Big Apple, chances are you've had a run-in with one of New York's "finest." If you're African-American or Hispanic, chances are you and the NYPD are on a first-name basis.That's the dope from a new study by investigators at the National Development Research Institute (NDRI) -- an independent New York City think-tank specializing in substance abuse issues.
The study, entitled "The race/ethnicity disparity in misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York City," analyzes NYC marijuana arrest data from 1980 to 2006. Its authors pay particular attention to the startling number of defendants arrested for "possessing marijuana in the fifth degree" (aka smoking pot in public) -- a misdemeanor crime that city cops began enforcing en masse under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's "Quality of Life" policing initiative. (Although the possession of less than 25 grams of pot is punishable under state law by a fine-only civil citation, New York Statute 221.10 defines the possession or use of marijuana "open to public view" as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up five days in jail.) The study's findings, which appear in the spring 2007 edition of the journal Criminology and Public Policy, are a sobering reminder of how race and class largely determine who is impacted by the war on cannabis consumers.Of the more than 395,000 defendants busted in New York City since 1980 for puffing or possessing pot in public, nearly 336,000 of them (85 percent) were either African-American or Hispanic. By contrast, African-Americans and Hispanics together comprise approximately half of the city's population. Of the years studied, the NYPD's racial crackdown was most egregious in 1994, when a whopping 91 percent of those arrested for public pot possession were black or Hispanic.The unequal treatment of minorities for misdemeanor pot crimes is not just limited to arrests, the study finds. Investigators also report that African-Americans were 2.66 times as likely as whites to be detained in jail pending arraignment while Hispanics were nearly twice as likely. In addition, both groups were twice as likely as whites to receive a conviction -- and criminal record -- for public pot possession. Compared to Caucasians, African-Americans were four times as likely and Hispanics were three times as likely to receive jail time."This study ... documents that the burden of [public pot] arrests have been falling disproportionately on blacks and Hispanics and that members of these minority groups, on average, have been receiving harsher treatment [than whites] within the criminal justice system," its authors conclude.The study is hardly the first to document such racial disparities in drug law enforcement. A 2005 NORML Foundation study by longtime High Times columnist Jon Gettman reported that although black adults account for fewer than 12 percent of all marijuana users, they comprise 23% those arrested annually on pot possession charges. A previous review of marijuana arrest data by Gettman in 2000 found that African-Americans are busted for marijuana possession at rates twice those of whites in 64 percent of US counties.In addition to highlighting the disproportionate racial aspect of New York City's pot law enforcement, the NDRI study also documents the unprecedented growth in the annual number of misdemeanor marijuana arrests resulting from Giuliani and Bloomberg's so-called "Quality of Life" policing.According to data compiled by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, arrests for public pot possession in the 80s averaged about 2,000 per year. Arrests fell to a low of 774 in 1991 before skyrocketing under the Giuliani administration to nearly 34,000 in 1999.City pot arrests hit an all-time high of 51,269 in 2000 before temporarily falling after the attacks of September 11, 2001. By 2006, however, nearly 32,000 New Yorkers were busted for possessing cannabis in public view -- 87 percent of whom were either black or Hispanic.So far this decade, a staggering 265,738 people have been arrested. Even more disturbing, NYS CJS data indicates that among those arrested in 2006, far more received jail time than in years past, indicating that penalties for minor pot offenses are being treated more severely by today's judges. Nevertheless, NDRI researchers found no evidence indicating that either the increase in arrests or the severity of sentencing has contributed to a decline in serious crimes and violence.Rather, the study contends "the growth in [public pot possession] arrest activity has had a substantial and disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic communities. ... Ending the disparities associated with marijuana in public view arrests would increase the level of justice in New York City, help [the police department's] relationship with black and Hispanic communities, and help black and Hispanic youths and young adults ... in their efforts to establish or maintain productive lives by not further burdening them with criminal justice sanctions and official criminal records."To achieve enforcement equality the authors call on the Bloomberg administration, as well as politicians in Albany, to take action. "The NYPD should consider scaling back on [the enforcement of] smoking marijuana in public view," they recommend. "The New York State legislature should also be encouraged to consider making smoking marijuana in public a violation and not a misdemeanor." Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He may be contacted via e-mail at: paul norml.orgNote: If you're a pot smoking African-American or Hispanic in New York City, chances are you and the NYPD are on a first-name basis.Source: AlterNet (US)Author: Paul Armentano, AlterNetPublished: March 31, 2007Copyright: 2007 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #17 posted by Had Enough on April 01, 2007 at 10:17:29 PT
W.H.O. indeed.
#15 & 16I caught that too. 
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Comment #16 posted by museman on April 01, 2007 at 09:53:11 PT
Just consider the source. W.H.O. Who indeed?
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Comment #15 posted by The GCW on April 01, 2007 at 01:52:28 PT
April fools junk?
Long-term cannabis use raises risk of lung cancer 
By Jonathan Owen 
Published: 01 April 2007 increases the risk of lung cancer and may cause 5 per cent of cases of the disease in people aged 55 and under, according to a new study being published later this year. Cont...(I don't know if this is a fools joke or what... 'cause in over 5,000 years of documented use there isn't any dead bolies to show for cannabis causeing cancer...)
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Comment #14 posted by ekim on March 31, 2007 at 21:07:38 PT
ck out comments for video of B Bar debate
b Barr Flip-Flops on Pot Well thank the Gods for that. Despite the snarky title this is pretty positive piece. Former prohibitionist Bob Barr, who as a Georgia congressman authored a successful amendment that blocked D.C. from implementing a medical marijuana initiative, has switched sides and become a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project. He says since 9/11 he's had a change of heart and thinks the government is meddling in our lives too much and in a moment of supreme irony will be lobbying for the same medar measure he helped defeat in DC. He's also going after the lame and expensive ONDCP anti-drug ads.On a hopeful note, he remarks that "[a] lot of conservatives have expressed great concern over the taxpayer money that is being wasted on this poorly run advertising campaign. As Radley so succinctly puts it, "Welcome aboard Bob."
Libby 5:26 PM Permalink Comments (4) Trackback
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on March 31, 2007 at 20:45:51 PT
Hemp and Cannabis
The Cannabis Plant can be used for so many things. Hemp and Cannabis are Cannabis Sativa I think. I'm tired so I am guessing rather then researching tonight. 
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on March 31, 2007 at 20:42:06 PT
I'm not sure I understand what you mean about Obama but the town meeting was very good. He seems tired but the pace must be something really hard. Raising money has to be the worst part of it I would think. The Internet will help though with webcasts and blogs. 
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Comment #11 posted by whig on March 31, 2007 at 20:18:42 PT
The one difficulty I have is the inconsistant nomenclature of Cannabis sativa spp. sativa. Sometimes it is described as industrial hemp, sometimes as the high THC variant. In the medical dispensaries the nomenclature is that spp. indica is a high CBD variant, and spp. sativa the high THC form.
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Comment #10 posted by ekim on March 31, 2007 at 20:18:19 PT
Hey I Man have Sen Obama on and ask him about NYC
Broward pot case going to Dade court
Friday, Mar 30, 2007
The case of a Broward judge facing a marijuana possession charge will go to the Miami-Dade court system, Gov. Charlie Crist announced Friday.
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Comment #9 posted by whig on March 31, 2007 at 20:14:46 PT
That article is entirely credible to me. It is known that cannabis can leach heavy metals from contaminated soil. You would not want to consume cannabis grown in such a field, or for that matter any agricultural project, but if the objective is simply to reclaim the soil it would be very effective and the cannabis would then be harvested and used for industrial applications that can tolerate the toxicity, or else disposed in some other proper way.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on March 31, 2007 at 19:32:52 PT
I Don't Know If This Is True
It's soon April Fool's Day.Proteins Change as Pot Plants Clean Up Soil
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Comment #7 posted by whig on March 31, 2007 at 18:30:34 PT
Whenever I got that high I imagined giant walking banana plants taking over. :)
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Comment #6 posted by whig on March 31, 2007 at 18:15:25 PT
I could get a prescription for the things I used to take for pain and sleep, and that would help if I didn't have cannabis, but they aren't very good. They are also some of them very addictive. Everyone I know who doesn't use cannabis who is over a certain age is using painkillers of some kind, or sleep aids, or what have you. It wouldn't be any different for me if I took the same damn things they take, except that I know they are goddamn poisons.
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Comment #5 posted by RevRayGreen on March 31, 2007 at 18:13:56 PT
I bring you The Pot
by Tool, for those that haven't seen or heard it. Some
it might be a little heavy for, but the video is good
when your mind is right. Everyones mind is right, right ?
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Comment #4 posted by whig on March 31, 2007 at 18:10:59 PT
Hotel California
This is really upsetting, because those of us who need medical marijuana cannot go out of state if we want to vacation or whatever, Even if I went to visit a state where medical marijuana is permitted, my "permission" is only good in California because that's where my doctor is licensed to practice. My wife just mentioned this to me and said how can we travel? I don't have a good answer.I know this is complaining about a nearly full glass, when people who live in other states have to deal with the state and local oppression we individual patients are presently spared here in the Bay Area. But unless I was going back to Pittsburgh I wouldn't even know anyone, and then after a few days my wife says I become intolerable due to my discomfort. So we can't go anywhere out of California....Hotel California, indeed.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on March 31, 2007 at 16:26:50 PT
I've been to New York City a number of times. I've gone to the National Horse Show when it was still held at Madison Square Garden and another time we got to walk around Greenwich Village in the middle of the night one summer. I also have been in Queens and the South Bronx in our semi truck in the middle of the night. That I did not like. I felt I needed eyes in the back of my head and we swore we would never go back again and we haven't. Most truck drivers we know after a couple visit won't delivery food or anything into the city after bad experiences. It is not how life is in the country. I became very paranoid and I am not a paranoid person in general.At the CSNY concert smoking in the lawn area seemed perfectly fine. I didn't see anyone get hassled. You just can't smoke in the pavillion area just the lawn section but at least they allowed people to relax and enjoy.
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Comment #2 posted by museman on March 31, 2007 at 15:59:54 PT
In rural areas, privacy tends to be wider spaced. Social gatherings tend to be more private. In the city, the street is where a lot of people spend most of their time. Because high society has made a point of ingoring most of the realities of the street, liberties and advantguarde behavior that would be rare in the country are fairly common in certain 'public' areas of a city. Smoking pot 'in public' is probably a lot more common and even relatively ignored by law enforcement (until it suits them) in some areas. New York is damn big. Never been. Never want to go.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 31, 2007 at 15:50:10 PT
A Question
You can tell I'm not from a big city because I always thought that no one could smoke marijuana in public because it's against the law. I didn't think anyone could smoke anything in New York City.
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