Marijuana Laws Creating Criminals And Considerable Judicial And Financial Costs

June 6, 2012

NEW YORK – More than 50,000 people in 2011 were arrested in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana — the majority of whom were black and Latino — at a considerable judicial and financial cost. New York City spends about $75 million every year on arresting people for recreational marijuana possession.

But what many people don’t know is that the state decriminalized this offense more than 30 years ago, making private possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana a violation punishable by a $100 fine. Possession of the same amount in public view remains a criminal misdemeanor.

Despite this change in law, arrests for small quantities of marijuana over the last decade have skyrocketed, with more than 400,000 people arrested and unceremoniously run through the criminal justice system. Marijuana possession is now the No. 1 arrest category in New York.

Why is this happening?
Hakeem Jeffries
Hakeem Jeffries
New York decriminalizing marijuana?
Is it time to legalize marijuana?

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people in New York are stopped, questioned, frisked and searched, often without justification, under the “stop and frisk” policy. The vast majority of these people live in communities of color, and almost 90% are immediately released without arrest or even a summons.

Often, however, the police approach young people and instruct them to empty their pockets immediately and show the officers anything they have. People who have a small quantity of marijuana in their pockets take it out and hold it up. The marijuana is now in public view. Thousands of people are then arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession, punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine.

Given the change of law in 1977, had the marijuana remained in the person’s pocket, possession would not have been a crime at all. But in complying with a police officer’s request, otherwise noncriminal behavior is instantly transformed into an arrest and unceremonious journey through the criminal justice system.

This is fundamentally unfair. Many view it as classic entrapment.

A majority of these arrests happen only in certain neighborhoods. Indeed, compounding the injustice is the fact that 85% of the people arrested are black and Latino. Yet studies consistently show that younger and affluent whites use marijuana in equal if not greater numbers.

The consequences of an arrest are severe, especially for young people of color who are already disproportionately subjected to criminal justice system intervention and incarceration. An arrest creates serious barriers to going to college or getting a job, and that person’s future may begin to spiral downward. The damage to police and community relations cannot be overstated.

Another serious problem is that these needless and inappropriate arrests detract from arresting and prosecuting serious criminals. Millions of dollars in law enforcement resources are wasted. Thousands of lives are damaged with the contamination of having a criminal record.

But New York is prepared to take a significant step forward to solve this problem. With the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, we are on the brink of finishing the job that the state Legislature started in 1977. We want to reduce the classification of possession of small quantities of marijuana in plain view from a misdemeanor to a violation.

Justice demands this change. The possession of small quantities of marijuana is either a crime or it is not. But it cannot be criminal activity for one group of people and socially acceptable behavior for another when the dividing line is race.

The connected and powerful — including many in high political office — have frequently admitted to smoking marijuana when they were young. We didn’t unmercifully penalize them. We should stop needlessly criminalizing tens of thousands of our young people for doing the same thing.

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Bessemer Alabama Postal Worker Derrick Harris Arrested On Drug And Animal Cruelty Charges

June 6, 2012

JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALABAMA – A Pleasant Grove man has been arrested on 19 charges of animal cruelty in relation to the seizure of 20 pit bull mixes from his home.

Derrick Harris, 37, was arrested by Pleasant Grove police at his place of employment, the Bessemer Post Office, Wednesday afternoon. Police say they arrested him at his workplace because he was not showing up at his home in Pleasant Grove.

Harris faces 19 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in addition to two felony charges for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

A total of 20 pit bull mixes were seized from Harris’ home on May 29 by the Birmingham Jefferson County Animal Control and Greater Birmingham Humane Society. The Pleasant Grove police chief said the dogs were in bad condition, chained up and many unable to reach their food and water. The dogs were taken into the BJC and GBHS for medical care.

Harris was booked into the Pleasant Grove Jail and is being transferred to the Jefferson County Jail. His total bond has not yet been set.

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Two Week Investigation And Raid By Reedsburg Wisconsin Police Yields 7 Grams Of Marijuana

May 19, 2012

REEDSBURG, WISCONSIN – A Reedsburg man was arrested Thursday on drug charges, after marijuana and paraphernalia allegedly was found in his home.

Richard McCabe, 46, was tentatively charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to a Reedsburg Police news release.

Officers executed a search warrant at his home on Lucky Street in Reedsburg at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, after conducting a two-week investigation.

Alleged items found were a quarter-ounce of marijuana and materials used to weigh, package and smoke narcotics, the release said.

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Minnesota Police Provided Marijuana To Watch Behavior – Targeted Occupy Protesters

May 15, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – A Minnesota training program that teaches police how to identify drug-impaired drivers is under fire following allegations that a participating officer gave marijuana to a test volunteer.

The allegation, leveled by another officer in the program, followed reports from anti-Wall Street demonstrators that police plucked Occupy Minneapolis members from a plaza in downtown Minneapolis for the training, gave them marijuana and watched them use drugs.

Minnesota has launched criminal and internal public safety investigations into the single allegation and suspended the program, in which officers use citizens off the street as test subjects. There are similar programs in 48 states.

Authorities have not directly connected the Occupy allegations to the investigation, but have said officers identified test subjects at the plaza where Occupy has been meeting as well as other locations.

Forest Olivier, an Occupy protester, testified at a Minneapolis City Council committee hearing on May 2 that he went with police to a training site voluntarily several times.

“They gave me a full bag of weed and they gave me a pipe to smoke it out of,” Olivier told the hearing.

A 35-minute video produced by Minnesota independent media groups, including Twin Cities IndyMedia and Occupy Minneapolis, and released this month showed uniformed officers picking up and dropping off young adults from the plaza in marked squad cars.

Occupy demonstrators interviewed on the video, including Olivier, said they were given drugs and then observed by dozens of officers. No officers are shown offering people drugs.

In one exchange, a protester tells an officer that other police had given him drugs, and the officer responds that he was only looking for people who are already impaired.

Minnesota public safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said: “If additional information becomes available we will widen the scope of the investigation.”

Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman suspended the program on May 9 “pending the outcome of these investigations and until we revisit and review the curriculum of the program.”

The program trains officers to act as drug recognition evaluators through classes and a dozen evaluations using volunteers from the community.

The investigation was launched after an officer who participated in the training reported witnessing a Hutchinson, Minnesota, police officer give marijuana to a potential test subject. Hutchinson Police Chief Dan Hatten said on Monday that the officer remains on scheduled duty.

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Daly City California Police Recommend Purple Dinosaur Medical Marijuana Delivery Service

March 31, 2012

DALY CITY, CALIFORNIA – Medical marijuana dispensaries are verboten in Daly City, Calif., following the City Council’s vote Monday to ban them. But delivery options are available to marijuana-seekers — just ask the police.

Cops gave several reasons why medical marijuana dispensaries should be banned in the San Mateo County city just south of San Francisco, according to SF Weekly. One is that 25 indoor pot farms were discovered in Daly City in 2011, according to police. Another is that cannabis patients can drive to San Francisco — or get their medicine delivered. The cops mentioned one service by name.

“There are numerous locations where Daly City residents can purchase medical marijuana within a short distance,” police wrote in the report. “The Purple Dinosaur Delivery Service is one of several dispensaries that will deliver to Daly City for free with a minimum purchase of $60 dollars [sic] or there is a $5 dollar delivery fee.”

For free!

It seems dispensaries were never going to be allowed in Daly City without a fight — or some kind of violence, according to City Coucilmember David Canepa, who said that dispensaries would only be allowed “over my dead body.”

The recommendations by police to go north or to get marijuana delivered also bodes well for San Francisco: three new dispensaries in the Excelsior District recently won approval, and that’s just a short distance from Daly City.

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Not Yours: Odor Of Burnt Marijuana Not Enough For Massachusetts Police To Harass Car Occupants

April 19, 2011

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – The odor of burnt marijuana is no longer enough for police officers to order a person from their car, now that possession of less than an ounce of marijuana has been decriminalized in Massachusetts, the state’s highest court ruled today.

“Without at least some other additional fact to bolster a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the odor of burnt marijuana alone cannot reasonably provide suspicion of criminal activity to justify an exit order,” the court ruled in a decision written by Chief Justice Roderick Ireland.

The court said the people’s intent in passing the ballot question decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana was “clear: possession of one ounce or less of marijuana should not be considered a serious infraction worthy of criminal sanction.”

“Ferreting out decriminalized conduct with the same fervor associated with the pursuit of serious criminal conduct is neither desired by the public nor in accord with the plain language of the statute,” the court said.

Justice Judith Cowin, who has since retired, penned a dissent.

She wrote that up until today, state law has allowed police to perform a warrantless search if they smelled burnt marijuana in a car.

“Even though possession of a small amount of marijuana is now no longer criminal, it may serve as the basis for a reasonable suspicion that activities involving marijuana, that are indeed criminal, are underway,” she wrote.

“Our case law is clear that ‘the odor of marijuana is sufficiently distinctive that it alone can supply probable cause to believe that marijuana is nearby.’ The advent of decriminalization certainly has had no effect on the distinctiveness of marijuana’s ordor. Nor has decriminalization affected the criminal status of numerous other activities involving marijuana,” Cowin wrote.

Voters in November 2008 overwhelmingly approved Question 2, which decriminalized marijuana, with backers calling for a “more sensible approach” to marijuana policy and focus by law enforcement on more serious and violent crimes. Opponents argued that the law would promote unsafe drug use.

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