140 people per day are arrested for marijuana possession in NYC

By Rob and Jenn

As the economy is in a slump and the national unemployment rate is at a horrendous 9.8 percent as of January 2011, it would seem there are better ways to use taxpayer money than marijuana enforcement – which crowds jails with non-violent offenders, imposes substantial costs on non-violent victims and of course, requires considerable public resources.

Recently released figures by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services indicate that in 2010, the New York City Police Department arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses. Some figures have estimated that only 59 percent of murders are solved in NYC, but apparently low-level marijuana use is of greater priority than murder. Drugpolicy.org contends that the rise in marijuana arrests cannot be explained by rise in marijuana use, which peaked in 1980 according to government data (full article here). According to the article, on average, nearly 140 people are arrested every day for marijuana possession in NYC, making the Big Apple the “Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World.”

If you break this down into the most simple form, people are being locked in a cage, fined and jailed for carrying a plant on them.  The way things are going in NYC, with people being fined $2,000 for recycling cans, and ticketing people for playing chess – I’m sure if there was a way to do it, NYC Mayor Bloomberg would arrest all the inhabitants on planet Earth for allowing this plant to flourish on its soil.

Possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana was actually decriminalized 30 years ago. Not that this stops cops from arresting people for it. The Marijuana Arrest Research Project found that marijuana arrests in New York disproportionately fell on minorities, even though usage rates were similar (more here). Kyung Ji Rhee, Director of the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reforms and Alternatives, a juvenile reformist group said, “The NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg are waging a war on young Blacks and Latinos in New York.”

Whether one smokes, enjoys, medicates with or approves of marijuana use, prohibition ultimately is not an endeavor worth the squandering of lives and money, and the perpetuation of gang crime and crowded prisons that enforcement necessarily entails. Americans are frequently bombarded with the significance of liberty and its role in the foundations of this country. However, freedom is a cheap and meaningless concept indeed when it is defined by the only entity that poses any real threat to it – the government.

Government entities, agents and politicians will set forth all kinds of liberty rhetoric claiming the United States is one of the freest societies in the world, but one must really question the truth of this when casual users of marijuana are routinely jailed. According to a summary and analysis of “Freedom in the World,” an annual report published by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Freedom house, the United States’ utterly dismal score of 15 in terms of drug policy and freedom (or lack thereof) places it at 153 out of 195 countries.

The United States incarcerates more of its own people (proportionally and in raw numbers) than any other country in the world. The US has 5 percent of the world’s population, and a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Many are imprisoned for drug-related crimes. Studies on “Electronic Police States” also show Americans have about as much internet freedom as Russians.  In fact, of 51 countries ranked in terms of government surveillance of citizens, the United States fares better only than North Korea, China, Belarus and Russia (see study here). As if being a police state weren’t bad enough, Americans and their politicians have the gall to go around lecturing and condescending to other countries and populations about human rights abuses, tyranny and democracy, while allegedly promoting the idea of “freedom.”

The entire discourse has almost become a game, whereby politicians and leaders direct the public’s attention to abuses and tyranny overseas, so that the public forgets or becomes apathetic about the exact same abuses occurring on American soil and continues to cheer on the jailing and confinement of their neighbors.

Georgia Sand

Georgia (George) Sand is an attorney located in sunny California. She enjoys beer, jogging, the beach, music, and chatting with her cats in her spare time.