Police spent 1 million hours arresting people for pot: Report

Marijuana seized from Olney home
(Credit: Rikard Larma)

More than 400,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in New York City during the last decade, according to a new report.

And cops spent about 1 million hours of their time arresting 440,000 people for pot, adds the report, released today by the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Police have squandered 1 million hours to make racially biased, costly and unlawful marijuana possession arrests,” Drug Policy Alliance state director Gabriel Sayegh said. “This is scandalous.”

The group has been one of several to criticize the NYPD for booking New Yorkers found with pot in their pocket. Advocates say many arrests result from NYPD officers stopping and searching New Yorkers, not people smoking on sidewalks.

In 2011, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly sent a memo telling officers not to arrest people for having small amounts of marijuana that was not in public view.

This week, state legislators are reportedly considering a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would make the penalty for having a small amount of marijuana in public view a violation instead of a misdemeanor.

According to the report, the amount of cops’ time used for a pot arrest varied from two hours to five hours, sometimes longer.

After an arrest, police must bring back the handcuffed person, book them, take photographs and fingerprints and write a report. They also check the person’s data against criminal databases, researchers said.

Researchers noted that this calculation does not include time from officials like corrections, court or prosecution staff.

About 70 percent of people arrested for marijuana are younger than 30, according to the report.

And more than 85 percent are black and Latino, researchers said.

“We cannot afford to continue arresting tens of thousands of youth every year for low-level marijuana possession,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo, an organizer with VOCAL-NY.

Carrasquillo told Metro about spending two days in jail after Harlem cops pulled him aside and found a bag of marijuana.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison


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