Police Will Do Anything to Arrest People for Marijuana, Part II

One of the most pernicious lies in the marijuana debate is that police aren't aggressively working to arrest people for small amounts of pot. They are. Although there are parts of the country where marijuana is a low priority for police, there are also places like New York City, where police have developed finely tuned mechanisms for arresting and convicting as many minor marijuana offenders as humanly possible.

What makes New York City's epic war on marijuana so remarkable is not just the staggering number of arrests (more than any other city on earth), but the despicable methods that are used to achieve that result. First, police must work their way around the fact that 1) possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized in New York and 2) the 4th Amendment forbids searching people against their will without evidence of a crime.

Basically, the program consists of stopping large numbers of people (primarily young black and Hispanic men) for no reason and then saying this:

"We're going to have to search you. If you have anything illegal you should show it to us now. If we find something when we search you, you'll have to spend the night in jail. But if you show us what you have now, maybe we can just give you a ticket. And if it’s nothing but a little weed, maybe we can let you go. So if you’ve got anything you’re not supposed to have, take it out and show it now.”

When police say this, the young people usually take out their small amount of marijuana and hand it over. Their marijuana is now "open to public view." And that – having a bit of pot out and open to be seen – technically makes it a crime, a fingerprintable offense. And for cooperating with the police, the young people are handcuffed and jailed. [Alternet]

Amazingly, you're not actually guilty of a crime until you attempt to cooperate with police. It is literally the act of showing them your stash that is a violation of the law and everything they say up until that point is designed to trick you into doing that. As is so often the case, policing in the war on drugs consists of tricking people into breaking the law so that the law can then be enforced.

Don't let anybody tell you we're not waging a war on marijuana users in America. That's exactly what we're doing and that's why marijuana policy reform has nothing do with people wanting to get high. This is about justice, human rights, and common sense. To jettison these principles because of marijuana is an act of unfathomable lunacy.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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More info

More info in this New York CLU article. If you were wondering what evidence the author had of these police tactics:

...the report is based upon two years of observations in criminal courts as well as extensive interviews with public defenders; Legal Aid and private attorneys; veteran police officers; current and former prosecutors and judges; and those arrested for possessing marijuana.

Mission's picture

the police

Here in Georgia they use the line "what is in your pockets, anything that can hurt me if I search you?" It brings out weed every single time. I read the local paper, amd sometimes there are ten busts for weed in one day.
$800. fine, lost of driver's licence for twelve months, and looming jail sentence of twelve months.Most all opt for drug treatment program, and pay.
This sort of tactic has to go. It has to.

LEAP_Speaker's picture

Cops Can Lie, We Can't

The sad thing is we can't trust police, they are trained to lie. As a deputy we were trained to ask anyone to search their vehicle. Most people think they will look guilty if they refuse a search. If a cop says open your trunk, and you do it, it's your bad. Just say no to searches.

My partner returned from search training, and stopped a motorcycle. He ask the guy to consent to a search, he did. There was an ounce of coke in his saddle bad. When he asked the guy why he let him search, he said he didn't want to look guilty. In Montana that's 20 years in prison.

I now live in Arizona, almost half of the arrests deputies make are for small amounts of marijuana and paraphernalia, both felonies in Arizona.

E. Jay Fleming
Former LEAP Speaker
[email protected]
Mohave Valley, AZ

Wow you really don't get it.

Your claim that this debate is about justice and human rights is warped. It's about the right of those of us who do not abuse drugs to be free of the tyranny and oppression of drug abusers in our midst. If you really had a legitimate cause, you could organize and stage public demonstrations that would fire up the national consciousness and encourage vast numbers of law abiding citizens to openly and publicly break the law while fully and completely accepting the consequences of their actions. The answer is simple, even most drug abusers don't care enough about getting high to actually fight the system. Heck, most of them don't even want their mommies to find out they do it or have even tried it. If this was truly a civil rights issue, there would be much more attention and sympathy from the electorate. The reality is that most people find drug abusers to be more tyrannical, oppressive, manipulative and corrupt than the police. The fact is, the vast majority of people don't give a damn about whether or not you have a right to get high. What they do know is that they don't want anyone pushing that crap on their kids. What they do know is that they don't want people committing more dangerous crimes in order to get the cash to get high. What they do know, is they don't want to have to deal with a bunch of irresponsible, annoying stoners any more than they already do. Seriously, why do you think employers have drug tests? They do it because they don't want to deal with the bullshit, enabler-seeking attitudes that go hand-in-hand with most drug abusers. It's more cost effective to hire people who don't mess with that crap. The same thing goes for student loans. Why would I want my tax dollars subsidizing a loan or a grant for someone who would just piss it away or end up too strung out to finish school or get a job or ever pay back. That risk is too great for me or the vast majority or taxpayers. How about you stop cramming your incessant need to get high down our throats and do something to really fight injustice in the world. Donate your resources to Amnesty International or the One Campaign against poverty or Greenpeace. Here's an idea, instead of a media campaign defending the right to be high and thereby out of control of your faculties and undermining a free and responsible democracy, start a legitimate business in an impoverished inner-city neighborhood and start reversing the tide of poverty that truly breeds drug dealers and gangs.

Andrew, it is you who do not get it

Prejudiced much?

Drug manufacture/cultivation, possession, sale, or use is not any of the government's business. It is a personal and property rights issue, individuals own their own bodies, the government does not own them (tho it wishes it does, and all too frequently acts as tho it does). Further, there is not one shred of Constitutional authority granted to government to control what individuals put into (or do to) their own bodies. There is no victim with drug use, so there is no crime, and government has no legal authority to control vices.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Decriminalization is a must!

The war on drugs is a failure. This is mainly due to all the focus that is put onto cannabis aka marijuana; because it is the most common drug, cops see it as an easy bust. Why not take more of the focus and actually put it towards the harder drugs such as coke, heroine, and meth? If you do the research, you will find that cannabis is in reality the most safe drug anyone could ever do, even safer than caffine or advile. It does not make a person violent, it is not addictive, it does not make you a failure and kill brain cells. It just urks my nerve that police focus more on arresting people for this petty crime instead of going after violent ones. This whole war on drugs is complete and utter bullshit. The government needs to change and give people the true facts if they want people to trust in them.

This is for andrew m in the

This is for andrew m in the above thread..you sound so f***ing retarded because reading what you wrote you sound like your so far up the governments ass that if they told you to stop breathing because it was illegal you probably would. Although i do not know why marijuana is illegal in the first place, maybe its because the gov knows they make a lot of money busting people for it and if they legalize it people will just grow the shit real easily and the gov will lose a ton of money...they should just make it medical in all states because what was already said above people should be allowed to self medicate themselves however they choose especially when in all reality when you choose marijuana to medicate yourself you bypass all the harsh side affects of these pills doctors and hospitals prescribe...maybe it is just about making the money or the gov not wanting to make themselves look stupid because richard nixon said all that crap about reefer madness and how drugs make people crazy and that made people afraid to even be in the same room as a joint let alone take a hit and stimulate their minds. If you have ever watched "the union" then you would know how innoccent marijuana is and i hope be as upset as i am about the gov wasting all of out tax dollars (as said above also in "the union") to locate and burn marijuana plants. I am for legalization of weed as is anyone else who has half a mind and has ever tried marijuana because the only thing marijuana is guilty of is allowing people to feel like a million bucks.



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