Skip to main content

Marijuana: New York City Pot Arrest Capital of the World

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #534)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Police in New York City arrested more than 39,700 people on marijuana charges last year, and that is no fluke. In the last decade, nearly 400,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for carrying small amounts of marijuana, the vast majority of them black or brown.

The figures come from a just released report by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine and Breaking the Chains executive director Deborah Small. According to the report, "Marijuana Arrest Crusade," whites constituted only 15% of those arrested, while Hispanics were 31% and blacks made up more than half of all pot arrests, with 52%.

"Racial profiling is a fact of life on the streets of New York City," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, during a news conference at the group's Manhattan headquarters.

New York is among the small number of states that decriminalized marijuana possession in the late 1970s, but that hasn't stopped police from arresting people carrying small amounts of weed and then subjecting them to average 24-hour stays in New York City jails while they await arraignment. Police get around the decrim law by "manufacturing" arrests for "possession in public view," said Levine. Police routinely stop young black and brown men on the streets, force them to empty their pockets, then charge them with the more serious "possession in public view" offense.

Since Big Apple marijuana arrests started going through the roof during the administration of Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, the city has sometimes accounted for one out of 10 marijuana arrests in the entire country. Last year, that figure was lower, with New York accounting for roughly 5% of pot arrests nationwide, still a huge number.

That makes New York City "the marijuana arrest capital of the world," said Lieberman.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Police don';t realize that they actually work for the people. They think they have an obligation to enforce the laws THEY want not the ones the people want.

But what else can you really expect from a police state?

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 4:08pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

New York is among the small number of states that decriminalized marijuana possession in the late 1970s.

When men of color are picked & singled out of a crowd this is racial profiling. When they are arrested for marijuana - this is false arrest & the ARRESTING OFFICER, & the ATTORNEYS MUST be held accountable for their actions & their contempt for the law, that they swore an OATH to uphold.

Did the NYC Police take an OATH to uphold the laws of New York?

This is fraud & there is NO Statute of Limitations on fraud!

This is also "malicious prosecution" which pays triple damages!

It is time to make NYC pay the people who have been abused, publicly humiliated & traumatized.

The lesson learned by NYC will send a message to the country - this abuse will NO LONGER be tolerated!

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 6:47pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

You know you're fucked when federal judges testify that police perjury is so prevalent it seems to be the norm not the exception!

Well then... Mr. Judge... why not do your job and arrest the criminal for perjury... like the law requires... 5 years mandatory minimun for perjury should give both parties plenty of time to prepare for the ensuing criminal & civil trials!

Only then will justice have begun to be served... and don't forget... criminal penalties double for hypocrits, liarticians, criminalcrats, and prohibitionist assholes in general.

COP: Constable of Peace OR Criminal On Patrol?

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 8:39pm Permalink
Malkavian (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

It's a foreign substance that you put into your body, and it alters the way the body and the mind works. It is the very definition of the word "drug".

But it's OK. Alcohol is a drug too, but no one seems to mind terribly that people drink a brew or two. No one _should_ worry if you smoke some weed, and that's really the message everyone needs to understand. (And secondly, that no matter what the drug laws make things a lot worse, not better.)

Thu, 05/08/2008 - 11:42am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

And is available for free on the website that reveals the effective treatment for this ignorance. Activists should be at the courthouse in New York City taking this religious eductional program on the 'right to the tree of life' to those in desperate need of a competent defense. The State of New York has an excellent Constitution in upholding religious freedoms and the 'right to understand the cause and nature' of the accusation. We got your Motion to Quash right here, bub. Teach those step by step instructions to those facing arraignment and even after leaving arraignment. If you will teach others, then you will have done a most excellent service to your fellow man and the kingdom of heaven. Halleluyah!

Sat, 05/03/2008 - 11:05pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

like Bed-Stuy, Harlem, Spanish Harlem, and Washington Heights. NYPD does not usually stop and frisk well-dressed black men in SoHo or Tribeca. Less than 3% of the population in low income neighborhoods is white, yet whites still make up 15% of the arrests. The vast majority of all these marijuana arrests have age range (under 30; most are under the age of 25) and sex (Male) in common.

People are targeted based on parameters that are not always racist (let's not forget that two of the cops who shot Sean Bell were black), but classist and grounded in cultural differences (ie. NYPD hanging out at Madison Square Garden to make arrests, or targeting transvestites in the West Village, or a white man in Harlem late at night hanging out with black friends.)

The problems with NYPD are vast, yet they are a model police organization for law enforcement world wide. The single person overseeing NYPD is the Mayor. NYPD answers to no committee, no citizens group. No one can tell NYPD what to do, except the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. It's really a dream set up for an armed force that is an army unto itself.

Sun, 05/04/2008 - 1:58pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The article pointed out that the massive increase in arrests for small amounts of riefer occurred in the decade which included the last part of Mayor Giuliani's administration.

A viewing of tobacco campaign contributions to Presidential candidates earlier this year showed that Giuliani was receiving by far the most money from the nicotine overdose industry-- and note that, though every candidate got something, former smoker Obama received the least. Perhaps there is hope in the fact that Giuliani's candidacy died early.

Meanwhile neither this article nor the comments brought up the linkage between cannabis suppression and the survival battle of the tobacco industry.

Conspiracies which seek to change the status quo attract attention. Conspiracies which seek to preserve the status quo -- which in this case means biz as usual, or 5.4 million drug homicides a year (see WHO press release, Feb. 7, 2008)-- fly under the radar so to speak and get conveniently ignored.

BIG TOBACKGO seeks the suppression of cannabis because

B. Some nicotine addicts might be able to quit the tobacco habit by switching to cannabis;

A. (Worse!!) with legalization of cannabis would come de facto legalization
and unhindered possession and use of vaporizers, single toke utensils, one-hitters, midwakh, kiseru etc., massive dosage reduction by millions of continuing tobacco smokers, and terminal crash of the tobacco industry profit margin.

BIG PHARMA seeks the suppression of cannabis because

B. Marijuana can replace many high-profit medicines;

A. (Worse!!) massive dosage reduction by tobacco addicts imitating cannabis users with vaporizers, one-hitters etc. could result in a disappearance of billions of dollars worth of cigaret-related diseases now being treated with high-profit medicines, resulting in a crash in the drug industry profit margin.

PS.: Stopping the Drug War includes, I think, putting an end to the slander of referring to cannabis as a "drug" (let alone "pot" etc.). Anyone who uses a moderate dosage utensil is outside the definition of drug use, just as anyone who drinks a glass of water is outside the definition of drowning. There is even a moderate, i.e. non-drug threshold for tobacco, and if this is understood, pro-cannabis campaigners can share a $1.5 mil. Nobel Prize for helping the worldwide tobacco mortality (see above) disappear from history.

Thu, 05/08/2008 - 4:34pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.