(MintPress) – A report released on Tuesday found that officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) spent about 1 million hours making 440,000 arrests for low-level marijuana possession charges between 2002 and 2012. Prepared by members of the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, the report says time spent on marijuana arrests is […]
(MintPress) – A report released on Tuesday found that officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) spent about 1 million hours making 440,000 arrests for low-level marijuana possession charges between 2002 and 2012.
Prepared by members of the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, the report says time spent on marijuana arrests is the “equivalent of having 31 police officers working eight hours a day, 365 days a year, for 11 years, making only marijuana possession arrests.”
On average, each marijuana possession arrest reportedly took about two-and-a-half hours with some arrests taking as long as five hours or more. Concerning to the report’s authors was the amount of time these arrests take police off the street and away from other crime-fighting activities.
“We cannot afford to continue arresting tens of thousands of youth every year for low-level marijuana possession,” Alfredo Carrasquillo, a civil rights organizer with the activist group VOCAL-NY, said in a release. “We can’t afford it in terms of the negative effect it has on the future prospects of our youth and we can’t afford in terms of police hours.”
Release of the report comes as New York state lawmakers decide whether or not to pass a bill reforming drug laws.
As Mint Press News previously reported, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced during his State of the City speech in February that those arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana will no longer be arrested, but instead be issued a ticket.
Since marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the reasoning that it has a high potential for abuse, getting arrested for possession is more than just “getting handcuffed, taken to the police station, fingerprinted, photographed (and in some cases, having one’s eyes scanned), detained for hours and sometimes days, and then released with a court date.” An arrest also creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be found on the Internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards and banks.
Bloomberg clarified during his speech that he was not proposing legalization of marijuana, but said decriminalization needs to happen to “ease congestion in courts and jails.” His support of focusing NYPD efforts on other crimes was surprising given that under Bloomberg’s leadership from 2007 to 2011, there were more marijuana arrests than in the 24 years from 1978 through 2001 under the leadership of Mayors Giuliani, Dinkins and Koch combined.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also proposed reforming New York’s marijuana laws by proposing to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in public view, and has made reformation a top legislative priority in 2013.
This trend in reforming marijuana laws is not just occurring in New York, but across the United States, as lawmakers become increasingly aware of the extent marijuana users are criminalized for even the smallest possession. As a result, many lawmakers have begun introducing legalization laws.
Currently medical marijuana legislation is pending in at least nine states, and other states have announced plans to expand medical marijuana laws they already passed. Some states, such as Minnesota, also introduced legislation that would legalize industrial hemp, which unlike its cousin marijuana, can’t be used to get high, but is a versatile crop that can be used to make a variety of goods.