Marijuana Reform Efforts Move Forward This Week in NY and RI

NEW YORK: A new report will be released on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, documenting the astronomical financial costs of the over 50,300 arrests for marijuana possession in New York City in 2010, and the cost of the 350,000 marijuana possession arrests made since Bloomberg became mayor.

Low-level marijuana possession offenses are the number one arrest in New York City, and are 15 percent of all arrests. The NYPD makes nearly a thousand arrests and jailings a week for simple marijuana possession.   New York City is now the “Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World.”   Research finds that most people arrested for marijuana possession were not smoking in public, but simply had a small amount in a pocket and were tricked by the police to reveal it.

How much money does it cost New York taxpayers for the police and courts to make and process all these possession arrests?  A lot of money!  The Drug Policy Alliance will release a first-of-its-kind report, co-authored by CUNY Sociology professor Harry Levine, showing the police, court and human costs of New York City’s marijuana arrest crusade.

Joining the press conference will be New York City council members, community activists, people stopped, frisked and arrested for marijuana, and others who will describe the economic and human toll of the skyrocking arrests. 
  When: Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 11 am -12 pm
   Where: The front steps of City Hall
   Who: NYC Council Members, including Council Member Letitia James, Council Member Jumanne Williams; Dr. Harry Levine and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reforms and Alternatives, the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL, and community members directly impacted by this issue.

Nearly 70% of those arrested for marijuana are younger than 30 years old.  Even though young whites use marijuana at higher rates, 87 % of the people arrested and jailed for maijruana possession are Black and Latino. 
The new report focuses on the costs of these arrests. Community groups will identify how the City could spend these funds differently – on essential services and programs, instead of on counterproductive marijuana arrests.

PROVIDENCE: On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee will hear public testimony on H5031, a bill to “decriminalize” marijuana (make an ounce or less subject to a $150 fine).  This same legislation last year was widely supported by the public, along with dozens of legislative sponsors, yet never came to a vote.  With no looming election, it is expected to receive a vote and likely reach the floor of the General Assembly within a month.  A review of last year’s hearings indicate that there is substantial pressure building for a new approach on drug policy.

For a snapshot on marijuana arrests, 535 people were scheduled for court today in Rhode Island.  96 were for driving offenses (18%), including Driving on Suspended, without a license, DUI, or otherwise.  Two had deaths resulting.  81 were for drug offenses (15%), there were no deaths reported.

Among the drug offenses: 24 were for Marijuana 1st offense (18) or “Subsequent” (6).  This is 30% of our drug enforcement, but it could be higher, as 34 are for possession of a Schedule I-V drug (could be marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc.)

21 Cases are for  Manufacturing/Delivery/Possession w/Intent (could include marijuana cases), while there were two accused of the 10z. – 1kg of hard drugs (one each for cocaine and heroin).

Expect to see an update tomorrow and Wednesday, prior to the hearing, for a three day look at police and Judicial resources.  Last year, a report on the $12.7 million expense to incarcerate marijuana users in Rhode Island helped open some eyes, along with testimony from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, and many interested people across the state.

With activists emerging on the Right, be they religious, or the new political group Right On Crime, can Democrats afford to be outflanked on drug policy reforms?  Stay tuned…

About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on
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2 Responses to Marijuana Reform Efforts Move Forward This Week in NY and RI

  1. Bruce Reilly says:

    On Tuesday (today) 826 people went to court.
    259 were for driving offenses (31%), while 95 were for drug offenses (12%). The 134 Driving on Suspended License charges and 76 DUI clearly dominated the docket. Yesterday I didn’t count DUI, so that number is vastly undercounted.

    Among the Drug offenses: 44 were for Marijuana 1st Possession, at least 3 of whom were facing Violation Hearings, with 3 more for Subsequent possession. At least 50% of all the drug cases of the day were for weed.
    Another 29 were for Possession of Controlled Substance Schedule I-V (could be weed); 18 for Manufacture/Delivery/Possesion w Intent (could be weed); and 1 was cocaine between 1 oz and 1 kg.

    Two Day Tally:
    At least 68 Marijuana possession cases (39% of drug cases)
    355 Driving-related cases (26% of ALL cases)- very undercounted, as only today was comprehensive on driving.

    Tomorrow is the hearing on decriminalizing marijuana. Today there will be judges, lawyers, sheriffs, correctional officers, and marshals processing at least 47 people’s marijuana charges.


  2. Pingback: Unprison 2011-2013 Index | unprison

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