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New York City: Police Commissioner Calls On Officers To Curb Marijuana Arrests

New York City police officers are to cease making misdemeanor marijuana arrests in cases where the contraband was not displayed in public view, according to an internal order issued late last week by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and reported by the New York Post. Although simple marijuana possession is a noncriminal violation in New York State, if the marijuana is ‘open to public view’ police can charge a suspect with a criminal misdemeanor. In 2010, city police made 50,383 lowest level marijuana possession arrests [NY State Penal Law 221.10] involving cases where marijuana was either used or possessed in public. The total was the second highest in the city’s history and was an increase of over 5,000 percent from 1990, when police reported fewer than 1,000 low-level pot arrests. Over 85 percent of those charged typically are either African American or Latino. However, an investigation in April by New York City public radio station WNYC questioned the legality of many of those arrested. It concluded that police routinely conduct warrantless ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches of civilians, find marijuana hidden on their persons, and then falsely charge them with possessing pot ‘open to public view.’ The Commissioner’s new order stipulates that marijuana discovered during a police search is a violation punishable by a ticket only. The memo states that if the contraband ‘was disclosed to public view at an officer’s direction’ then it is not sufficient evidence that a suspect is in violation of state Penal Law 221.10. Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, who has documented the racial disparity in arrest rates in New York City and elsewhere, stated: “[I’m] pleased that the NYPD agrees that these marijuana arrests have not been proper and will begin to curtail them. We are always encouraged when the police decide to obey the law.” He added: “New York City’s routine policing practices, especially for drug possession, require major reform. This is only the first step.” Bipartisan legislation that seeks to reduce penalties for those in violation of Penal Law 221.10 to a non-criminal violation remains pending in the state assembly. An online analysis of marijuana arrest in New York and other major cities nationwide is now available online by the Marijuana Arrests Research Project at: http://www.marijuana-arrests.com.

Paul Armentano is co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink


Federal Cannabis Prohibition Turned 75-Years-Old on October 1

In a milestone that will no doubt go largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, today marks the 75th anniversary of the enactment of federal marijuana prohibition. On October 1, 1937, the US government criminally outlawed the possession and cultivation of cannabis — setting into motion a public policy that today results in some 850,000 arrests […] Read More..

Montana: Supreme Court Says Patients Possess No Fundamental Right To Cannabis

Members of the Montana Supreme Court ruled 6 to 1 on Tuesday that patients do not possess a fundamental right to access and consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The decision reverses a District Court ruling enjoining the state from enforcing various provisions of a 2011 state law that limits the public’s access to medical marijuana. […] Read More..

Study: Non-Psychotropic Cannabinoid “Proven To Be Safe” In Humans

The oral administration of the non-psychotropic cannabis plant constituent cannabidiol (CBD) is safe and well tolerated in humans, according to clinical trial data published online by the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design. Investigators at Kings College in London assessed the physiological and behavioral effects of CBD and THC versus placebo in 16 healthy volunteers in a […] Read More..

Michigan: Grand Rapids Voters Will Decide On $25 Fine-Only Offense For Pot Possession

Voters in Grand Rapids, Michigan will decide this November on a municipal measure to depenalize marijuana possession offenses to a non-criminal, fine-only offense. The City Commissioner’s office has approved the measure, Proposal 2, which seeks to allow local law enforcement the discretion to ticket first-time marijuana offenders with a civil citation, punishable by a $25 […] Read More..

Scientific Review: “There Is Now Clear Evidence That Cannabinoids Are Useful For The Treatment Of Various Medical Conditions”

For the second time in recent months, a scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal has thoroughly rebutted the present Schedule I status of cannabis under US federal law, which states that the plant and its organic constituents possess a “high potential for abuse,” and that they lack “accepted medical use” and “accepted safety … […] Read More..