cannabis1959The Drug Policy Alliance just released a study that provides further evidence that big city police resources are being used on victimless marijuana crime arrests, when that time could be allocated to violent offenses. In its press release, the Drug Policy Alliance reveals:

A new report released today 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 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over 11 years….

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.

Additionally, the report estimates that the people arrested by NYPD for marijuana possession have spent 5,000,000 hours in police custody over the last decade.

The full report indicates both a public safety misallocation of resources and racial bias:

  • New York City has made more marijuana possession arrests under Mayor Michael Bloomberg than under mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani combined.
  • Nearly 70% of those arrested for marijuana are younger than 30 years old, and over 50% are under 21 years old. These young people receive a permanent criminal arrest record which can be easily found on the internet by employers, banks, schools, landlords, and others.
  • Even though young whites use marijuana at higher rates, over 85% of the people arrested and jailed for marijuana possession are black and Latino.
  • These arrests are costing New Yorkers more than $75 million per year.

“This report shows that people arrested for marijuana possession spend an average of 12-18 hours, just in police custody, and the vast majority of those arrested are young Black and Latino men from seven to ten neighborhoods in NYC,” said Chino Hardin, Field Coordinator and Trainer with the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. “This is not just a crisis, but a frontline civil rights issue facing urban communities of color in the 21st century.

BuzzFlash at Truthout reflected on the archaic and detrimental emphasis on marijuana arrests in a commentary on March 6, headlined: “More Marijuana Arrests in US Than Apprehensions for Violence in 2011: A National Disgrace.” This also is compounded by the White House/Department of Justice (DOJ) assault and prosecution of the sale of medical marijuana in areas where it has been legalized by states.  It also appears, from DOJ leaks that the department is preparing to challenge the voter-mandated legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington State.

When it comes to the counter-productive federal and local prosecution of marijuana infractions, the 2012 Obama campaign slogan should have been “backward” not “forward.”

Most notably, to re-emphasize the point, marijuana arrests and prosecutions make the public less safe, as noted in the March 6 BuzzFlash commentary:

The most basic instinct of humans is self-preservation and keeping free from personal harm.  So when you have a nation where police arrest more people for marijuana possession than for violent crime, it would appear that protecting citizens from physical harm takes second place to enforcing archaic laws demonizing a weed that induces euphoria and an urge to eat.

After all, alcohol is socially sanctioned as a way of relaxing with friends or alone.  No one gets busted for sipping from a can of beer on the front porch or drinking champagne at a swanky charity fundraiser.

Yet despite the action of 18 states to legalize the medical use of marijuana — and in Colorado and Washington State to decriminalize it for recreational use – arrests at the local and federal level are proceeding full steam ahead, to the detriment of public safety – given a limited amount of law enforcement resources.

It is a policy dangerous to our personal well-being, because while cops are booking Americans for a few joints found in a pocket, an armed robber is getting away in an alley somewhere.

Yes, indeed, while Wall Street executives are downing cocktails — as their hot shot traders snort cocaine with nary an arrest — the feds and NYC cops are out busting minority youth for getting high on joints.  The bottom line: it’s okay to get high if you are one of the elite.  But busting minorities for marijuana is an easy way to get them off the streets and feed the prison-industrial complex.

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Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout.  He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for ten years before joining Truthout in 2010.  BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards.