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  1. chillinwill
    Outside a music club on Greenwich Street in SoHo, the bouncers smoke joints as they check in the arriving customers. A young graphic artist routinely strolls through Chelsea, joint in hand. And when a publicist calls her supplier to order pot, she uses code words — a studio, a one- or two-bedroom — to signal how much she wants.

    New York City is now entering its 10th year of pouring tens of millions of dollars into arresting people for the lowest-level misdemeanor marijuana cases.

    But the SoHo bouncers and the Chelsea graphic artist don’t have much to worry about, at least from the police: they are white. Even though surveys show they are part of the demographic group that makes the heaviest use of pot, white people in New York are the least likely to be arrested for it.

    Last year, black New Yorkers were seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession and no more serious crime. Latinos were four times more likely.

    In 2001, during his first campaign for mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg was asked by New York magazine if he had ever used marijuana. “You bet I did,” he replied. “And I enjoyed it.”

    Like most white New Yorkers, he stood almost no chance of being locked up for his pot use, then being handcuffed, fingerprinted and spending a night in Central Booking.

    Mr. Bloomberg may have been the first major city candidate to acknowledge using pot, but as mayor he has led a sweeping expansion of arrests, according to a recent study by Harry G. Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College.

    During Mr. Bloomberg’s first two terms in office, the lowest-level marijuana arrests were up, on average, by 50 percent over when his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, was in office. Last year, Professor Levine said, the city made 40,300 such arrests — about 12 percent of arrests for all crimes. Of these, 87 percent were of blacks or Latinos.

    In 2008, the police made more pot arrests “than in the 12 years of Mayor Koch, plus the four years of Mayor Dinkins, plus the first two years of Mayor Giuliani,” Mr. Levine wrote. “In other words, in one year, 2008, Bloomberg made more pot arrests than in 18 years of Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani combined.”

    The mayor’s office said on Tuesday that it could not estimate the cost of such arrests. Mr. Levine, drawing on studies done in other cities, estimated that they could range from $53 million to $88 million annually.

    WHATEVER the precise costs, are all these marijuana arrests — wildly disproportionate in their racial impact, and consuming the energy of thousands of police officers, the courts, prosecutors and defense lawyers — truly helping the city?

    Mr. Bloomberg’s chief criminal justice aide, John Feinblatt, declined to discuss the city’s approach to marijuana arrests, or the findings of the study. But through a spokesman, he issued a statement maintaining the pot arrests have helped drive down violent crime.

    Marijuana arrests — which rarely lead to jail — are concentrated in neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of violent crime because that’s where the police focus their attention in order to reduce victimization,” Mr. Feinblatt said. “This continued focus on low-level offending has been part of the city’s effective crime-reduction strategy, which has resulted in a 35 percent decrease in crime since 2001."

    In effect, Mr. Feinblatt was arguing a variation on the “broken-windows” theory of crime-fighting — that cracking down on symptoms of public disorder helps head off more serious problems.

    Mr. Levine argues that such arrests drain resources needed for dealing with serious threats.

    The possession of less than an ounce of marijuana was decriminalized by the State Legislature in 1977, reduced to a violation, the equivalent of a traffic ticket. “Burning” it or having it “open to public view” is a misdemeanor.

    The handful of white pot smokers who do get arrested can be found in court on Mondays and Tuesdays, when they must answer tickets typically issued for smoking pot in a park. The rest of the week is taken up with blacks and Latinos, who are more likely to have spent a night in jail before court, said Edward McCarthy, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society.

    “Some of the police officers, who are at the start of their careers, are apologetic when they make these arrests,” Mr. McCarthy said. “They say, ‘if my lieutenant or sergeant weren’t here, I’d let you go.’ ”

    Jim Dwyer
    December 22, 2009
    NY Times


  1. insignius
    SWIM has been called a racist (usually by whites, interestingly) many times for pointing out this very fact...despite that many of his friends and colleagues are black.

    He believes that, indeed, there is a discrepancy and a stereotype there which is unfortunate and indeed is unfair, but also maintains that if the African American population, or the Hispanic one which also falls prey to this but was omitted from the article (or to be fair, the sectors of them in the lower-income demographic) were not by far the ones committing violent crimes and robberies, that they would garner much less attention from LE and therefore would reduce this overwhelming statistic.

    Please do not misunderstand, as SWIM is not in any way justifying the many instances where minorities are, say, pulled over without just cause and searched, arrested, etc etc... but he is just saying that much of these stats can be attributed to the above reasons. Unfortunately, this provides a perfect excuse for those police that DO use it as a reason to be, well, haters. sucks, all around, as NOBODY regardless of color needs to be in jail because of a harmless plant. they need to legalize and get it the hell over with...

    anyway. just his $.02...
  2. insignius
    Hmm.. also, to SWIM this is a perfect example of the slant and bias of the publication in question as he disagrees wholeheartedly with the statement.

    He hasn't been to NYC recently; he doubts, however, that if he or any other white person just walking down the street were to be smoking pot that blatantly, that any officer would think twice about throwin em right in jail.. with a quickness..

    anyway. this is why swim hates politics... guess everyone needs an agenda... (sorry for the double post)
  3. EscapeDummy
    I dunno, I'd have to disagree. Here in CA (near SF), I have many more black friends who have been busted by the police than white friends (for weed), yet I have many more white than black friends.

    Don't think for a minute that the cops wouldn't be reluctant or hesitant to arrest the bouncers or publicist mentioned in the article, but they'd book a young black kid faster than you can snap your fingers. Swim has seen a car with 3 or 4 black kids (at night) being pulled over for absolutely no reason that he could discern, and he's seen it a few times. Swim thinks non-black/hispanic people are also more likely to get off from a alcohol or marijuana charge, where the officer confiscates their stuff and lets them go without a citation/arrest.
  4. dyingtomorrow
    SWIM thinks it is ridiculous that marijuana is still illegal, well, and all other drugs for that matter. To explain what is probably happening though ...

    It's likely the cops are concentrating on rolling around through neighborhoods where pot/crack/heroin spots are located, which is in mostly black areas, and just going up to people and searching them and arresting them for whatever they can. Most of the time they don't have probable cause for the stop, but just do it anyways because they want to hassle them. A lot of these cases get thrown out though.

    SWIM's brother, for instance, was arrested 4 times in the last 2 months for heroin possession. In all the cases he was wandering around in the ghetto, and they were all thrown out for lack of probable cause to make a stop. One of the cops even told him just to show up to court because it was going to get thrown out since the officer wasn't going to come in and defend why he stopped him.

    They just do it to fuck with people, for unknown police-psychopath reasons.
  5. insignius
    Well, guess maybe it's different in Texas (who would have thought) but SWIM has been fucked with enough by the police to say that, yeah, it doesn't matter what color you are, if you're smoking weed out in public... you're going to jail. Shit, SWIM wouldn't spark up in front of a crowded night-club, if someone else wants to, more power to em. Hope they don't get busted.

    Of course minorities get fucked with and hassled more, but SWIM even had an officer tell him before, "take it home, and don't let it out of your house again. We don't give a shit about weed, but if you're smoking in your car or on the street, we take that as an insult"

    anyway. sucks all around...
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