Most people arrested for marijuana in New York City are not the same people later behind bars for violent crimes, according to a new report.
The study, released Friday by Human Rights Watch, reported that 90 percent of people arrested for pot possession did not have subsequent arrests.
Advocates and city officials were at City Hall yesterday afternoon to push legislators to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana after the study showed that most marijuana arrestees do not go on to commit violent crimes.
The report questions whether arresting people for marijuana is a public safety benefit.
The study notes the common criticisms of these kinds of arrests: that they are racially biased or otherwise unconstitutional and that they are a costly, inefficient use of resources.
The Drug Policy Alliance has estimated that marijuana arrests cost the city about $75 million in a year.
"These arrests are a waste of the police's time and resources," said Drug Policy Alliance spokesman Gabriel Sayegh. "We need to reorient those energies on issues that will yield an actual public safety benefit."
Sayegh says Cuomo's marijuana decriminalization bill has the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, as well as all five of the city's district attorneys.
Kelly last year issued a directive instructing officers not to arrest people who took out small amounts of marijuana when asked, but 2011 still included 50,684 marijuana possession arrests, the second highest number in city history, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
The report's findings
The Human Rights Watch report kept track of people arrested in 2003 and 2004 who had not previously been convicted of a crime.
90.3 Percent had no subsequent felony convictions
6.2 Percent had one or more non-violent felony convictions
3.1 Percent had one violent conviction
0.4 Percent had two or more violent conviction
Arrested for marijuana in a sock
Jiquay, 16, said he was walking with a friend on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn last month when cops stopped him to pat him down. They found a small bag of marijuana in his sock, about $5 worth, he said, and removed it themselves before arresting him. Jonathan, 22, said he works for the city, and was arrested in the Brighton Beach area in October. His arrest report stated that he had handed two small bags of marijuana to the officer, but he said he was already in handcuffs when he confessed he had the marijuana on him, and the officers then removed it from him pocket. Neither Jonathan nor Jiquay had ever been arrested before, they said.
Other are hoping to legalize marijuana for medical uses. Although the governor is pushing to decriminalize, he is not a proponent of legalizing, expressing earlier this year that the risks outweigh the benefits. But Colorado-based marijuana company Gaia Plant Based Medicine has hired Patricia Lynch Associates to lobby New York State legislature and Governor Cuomo for medical marijuana legalization. Gaia is proposing the same "seed to sale" model that is used in Colorado, where state-approved firms grow, distribute and sell the marijuana directly to patients, which is meant to make it easier for the state to track and regulate the process from beginning to end.