NYC Marijuana Arrests Down 22 Percent
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NYC Marijuana Arrests Down 22 Percent
Posted by CN Staff on February 16, 2013 at 13:39:30 PT
By Jennifer Peltz,  Associated Press
Source: Associated Press
New York -- Low-level marijuana arrests dropped 22 percent last year amid scrutiny of how the nation's biggest city polices small amounts of pot, according to new data available as the governor and mayor call for changing a law that has spurred a flood of arrests and criticism. Still, more than 39,000 people were picked up on minor pot possession charges citywide in 2012, according to state Division of Criminal Justice Services data obtained by The Associated Press. Low-level marijuana offenses remained the number-one cause of arrests in the city 35 years after state lawmakers decided it wasn't a crime to have a small amount of pot if it's out of sight.
The New York Police Department says it can't pinpoint what caused the drop, which measures the first the first full year after an order meant to thwart what some considered a tricky arrest practice. Critics say the number still measures a toll of questionable police tactics. Otherwise, "these arrests would drop dramatically," said Gabriel Sayegh, the New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports less punitive drug laws. "We need to reform the laws and bring accountability to the NYPD." After averaging about 2,200 a year for about two decades, the marijuana arrests began rocketing up in the late 1990s and topped 50,000 in some recent years, including 2011. The lowest-level marijuana crime accounted for 1 in every 8 arrests in the city last year, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which has analyzed years of state data. Critics have long said the arrests do little for public safety but inflict a lot of personal harm. Now some of the state's most powerful politicians are saying so, too. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who tried last spring to ease the pot possession law, used his State of the State speech last month to emphasize that he'll try again this year. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in his State of the City address Thursday that the city would change how it handles the arrests to save police time and spare many people the lengthy process of being booked and held for arraignment. The discussion in New York comes at a dynamic moment in the decades-long national debate over marijuana and its place in drug policy. After several states OK'd medical marijuana, Washington and Colorado voters agreed this fall to decriminalize small-scale marijuana possession for recreational use. Under New York's 1977 law, it's a non-criminal violation to have less than 25 grams  about 7/8 of an ounce  of the drug in a drawer, pocket or bag. That means a ticket, not an arrest. But if the pot is "open to public view," it's a misdemeanor. That spurs an arrest and carries the potential for a criminal record and up to three months in jail, though such cases often get dismissed or resolved with no incarceration except the time spent in custody between arrest and arraignment. In New York City, that can easily be 24 hours or more. Alfredo Carrasquillo got to know the drill all too well in his teens and early 20s. He estimates he was arrested about a dozen times on pot possession charges, though he says he never had the drug out in the open. The arrests generally meant a trip to the city's central booking facility, then waiting for his turn in a busy arraignment court and sometimes missing work, he recalls. "A few times, I had to literally call out from work from the freaking precinct because I was about to go to central booking," said Carrasquillo, now 29 and a community organizer. Starting next month, such arrests will be handled with an appearance ticket  a summons for a future court date  unless the person lacks identification or has an open warrant, Bloomberg announced Thursday. "You're just clogging the jails, you're clogging the courts, you're clogging the police schedules," he added on his WOR-AM radio show Friday. About half those arrested on marijuana charges already get appearance tickets, chief New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said. While welcoming the appearance-ticket plan, critics of the marijuana arrests say the law and police tactics are what ultimately need changing. The activists see the rise in marijuana arrests as an outgrowth of the NYPD's practice of stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking hundreds of thousands of people on city streets each year. Police say the technique deters crime. Critics say the stops intimidate innocent people, smack of racial profiling and beget dubious marijuana arrests. Officers tell people to empty their pockets and bags, thereby bringing pot into public view, the opponents say. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly reminded officers in September 2011 that they couldn't induce people to bring the drug into the open, though he said he had no indication that was happening. Amid the debate, Bloomberg and Kelly are backing Cuomo's proposal to decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana even if it's publicly visible, as long as it's not being smoked. "These arrests stigmatize," Cuomo said in his State of the State address, noting that they can hurt people's chances of getting into college or landing jobs. "It's not fair. It's not right." The idea has strong Democratic support in the state Assembly and Senate, but a similar proposal from the governor ran into opposition last year from Senate Republicans. Nearly three-fifths of New York City voters favor the concept, according to a Quinnipiac University poll last June of nearly 1,100 city voters. But some say government shouldn't send a message that an illicit drug is no big deal if it's not a big amount. "I think the signal of saying, 'It's OK to break the law a little bit' is wrong," said Michael Long, the chairman of the state Conservative Party. Associated Press writers Michael Gormley in Albany, N.Y., and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.Source: Associated Press (Wire)Author: Jennifer Peltz,  Associated PressPublished:  February 16, 2013Copyright: 2013 The Associated PressCannabisNews -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on February 17, 2013 at 06:33:19 PT
Editorial w/nothing new.
Amendment 64 seems clear on employment and pot use
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on February 16, 2013 at 16:04:31 PT
excellent HuffPo article
has everyone seen this? be sure to read the comments: Schwarz, Father Of String Theory, To Headline Medical Marijuana Conference In D.C. 
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