Today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed A08420 into law, which will fix the state's decriminalization law and provide for automatic expungement for those with certain misdemeanor cannabis convictions. The law will take effect in 30 days.
This reform will save thousands of New Yorkers from arrest and allow those with previous cannabis convictions to move on with their lives. It also reduces the penalty for possessing about an ounce of cannabis from a $100 fine to a $50 fine. For more details, read our full summary of the bill here.
While this improved decriminalization law is an important step forward, there is still work to be done to improve New York's marijuana laws. Unfortunately, the legislature failed to pass a legalization measure before the session adjourned.
The majority of New Yorkers support legalization. Let your lawmakers know you want them to pass legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult use in 2020.
The FBI just released its annual Crime in the United States report, detailing national crime data for 2015. According to the report, marijuana arrests are at a two decade low. This is definitely a good sign, but even one marijuana arrest is too many, and more than one marijuana arrest occurs every minute.
Huffington Post reports:
...authorities in the U.S. made 643,000 arrests for marijuana-related charges in 2015 ― or about one every 49 seconds. Charges related to the drug accounted for 5.9 percent of all arrests, and about 43.2 percent of all drug arrests.
The number of marijuana arrests has been generally decreasing since peaking in 2007. That year, police made 872,720 total arrests related to the drug, including 775,137 for possession. Just about 574,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2015 involved possession, and arrests for the sale and manufacture of the drug reached a nearly 25-year low.
Opponents to legalization often downplay the significance of marijuana arrests, arguing that they don’t lead to severe punishments and that a very small percentage of Americans wind up jailed for low-level marijuana offenses.
Yet a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance found that getting arrested for marijuana can still significantly affect a person, even though marijuana-related penalties have been scaled back in many places over recent years.
“A marijuana arrest is no small matter,” reads the report, which also shows that most people arrested for marijuana are held in jail for a day or more. Many are also branded with a permanent criminal record, which can hurt their employment status and access to education and housing.
Additionally, a one-year HuffPost analysis of jail deaths found that several inmates arrested on a marijuana offense died behind bars.
Such arrests are also costly ― authorities spend approximately $3.6 billion annually enforcing laws against marijuana possession, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
With five states considering initiatives to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November, another three voting on medical marijuana initiatives, and lobbying efforts planned in dozens of states next year, we could start to see those numbers drop even more in the coming years. There is still much work to do.
The annual number of arrests for marijuana offenses in the U.S. increased last year for the first time since 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Report released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An estimated 700,993 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana-related offenses in 2014 — up from 693,058 in 2013 — of which 88.42% were for possession. On average, one person was arrested for a marijuana-related offense in the U.S. approximately every 45 seconds (every 51 seconds for possession).
It’s unclear why the number of arrests increased last year, particularly given the nationwide sea change in attitudes about the status of marijuana and political actions that decriminalized or abolished penalties for possessing the drug.
Retail marijuana shops opened in Colorado and Washington state in 2014, where most adults are allowed to possess small quantities of pot. In November, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the nation’s capital voted to legalize it, too -- though penalties technically weren’t ditched right away.
Maryland, meanwhile, decriminalized small-time pot possession in October 2014, replacing arrests with citations. The nation's largest and fifth-largest cities made similar moves, and monthly marijuana arrest rates reportedly fell about 75 percent after New York City and Philadelphia implemented the policies in November and October, respectively.
With several states -- including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada -- preparing to vote on legalization in 2016, following Ohio voters this November, Angell says arrest numbers should soon drop significantly.
While law enforcement was busy making nearly three quarters of a million marijuana arrests, more than 35% of murders went unsolved, the clearance rate for rape was less than 40%, and for robbery and property crimes, it was below 30%.
A report released today by Dr. Jon Gettman shows that despite increasing support for ending marijuana prohibition, arrests for possession are actually increasing in some states. The report and other information can be found on Dr. Gettman's new site, RegulatingCannabis.com.
According to a blog by Paul Armentano at NORML:
FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Continue at Near Record Levels Despite Changing National Attitudes
Marijuana arrests continued at near record levels in 2012, and the vast majority of them were for simple possession. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, an estimated 749,824 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana, more than 87% of which were for possession. This is a slight decrease from 2011. Marijuana arrests accounted for nearly half of all drug arrests last year.
The report also noted that 59.9% of rapes, 53.2% of all violent crimes, and 81% of property crimes reported in 2012 were unsolved or did not result in arrest.
The full report is available here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012
These results show that one person is arrested for marijuana possession every 48 seconds on average in the United States. A Pew Research Poll released in April reported that a majority of Americans think marijuana should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.
In a nutshell, we continue to waste billions of dollars arresting and prosecuting people for using a substance that is safer than alcohol, which most Americans think should be legal, and allow huge numbers of violent attacks and property crimes to go unanswered and unpunished. And we do this year after year. The only bright side is that arrest numbers, while still unacceptably high, appear to be dropping.
The more people you know who use marijuana, the harder it becomes to say that they should be arrested for possessing it. After all, the vast majority of marijuana users are productive and otherwise law-abiding members of society. This fact has become increasingly evident as more and more people come out of the “cannabis closet” and become open about their experiences with the substance.
Last Friday, House Speaker John Boehner’s daughter Lindsay married Dominic Lakhan, a Jamaican-born construction worker. Lakhan was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in 2006.
Is it possible that Boehner, who has consistently opposed marijuana policy reform, will start to come around now that he has a convicted marijuana user for a son-in-law? Does he think Lakhan is better off with an arrest record or that Lakhan deserves to be arrested again for using marijuana? Would he care about how it affects his daughter? Only time will tell.
Let’s hope his experience is similar to that of Republican Senator Rob Portman, who changed his stance on gay marriage after learning that his son is gay. While this position initially caused a slight loss in approval among Republicans in his state, the growing acceptance of gay marriage (which has been nearly mirrored by the increasing support for marijuana policy reform) could actually help him in the long run.
Politicians’ thinking traditionally lags far behind the general public on social issues, but it gets a little harder to ignore when that thinking hurts your own family.
Have you ever wondered how many hours law enforcement officers waste on arresting and processing people for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession? The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has the answer, and it’s in the seven digits.
The DPA reviewed low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests carried out by the New York Police Department (NYPD) during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure and found that NYPD used approximately 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over 11 years. That’s 1,000,000 hours that could have been spent investigating and solving serious, violent crimes. And that is just one city.
Additionally, the report, which was prepared by professor of sociology at Queens College Dr. Harry Levine, a recognized expert on marijuana possession arrests, estimates that the people arrested by NYPD for marijuana possession have spent 5,000,000 hours in police custody over the last decade.
The only people who profit from a police force high on marijuana arrests are the real predators. How many more hours will be squandered until lawmakers realize that targeting non-violent marijuana users is putting our communities at risk?
Today, the City Council of Chicago voted 43-3 to amend the city’s code to direct police officers to cite, rather than arrest, individuals in possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana. Under the proposal, which has the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police could still arrest those who cannot produce identification or present a threat to public safety. Those cited would face fines of $200 to $500 dollars and up to 10 hours of community service; however, there would be no risk of jail time.
Passage of the measure means that adults in possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer be arrested or saddled with criminal records that can make it harder to obtain employment, housing, and student loans. The ordinance will also allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, like the city’s soaring murder rate, while conserving limited police resources. Violent crime has become a serious concern in Chicago, with homicides up 38% over the last year.
Chicago now joins over 90 other localities in Illinois and 15 other states across the nation in removing criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession. Since enacting laws replacing arrest and jail with fines for such violations, there has been no appreciable increase in marijuana use in those areas, either among adults or young people. The move follows a recent trend in marijuana reforms, including a similar penalty reform in Rhode Island and medical marijuana legislation in Connecticut this May and June. Legislative chambers in New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey also approved marijuana policy reforms in recent weeks. This trend reflects growing public consensus that harsh marijuana laws are ineffective, and scarce law enforcement resources should not be used to arrest adults for using a substance safer than alcohol.
If only President Obama's former colleagues, like his good friend the Mayor of Chicago, could convince him that people are ready for real marijuana policy change, and that we need it more than ever.
UPDATE: Dave Mustaine has clarified his position, saying that he likes Santorum but does not officially "endorse" him.
I was shocked to learn that Dave Mustaine, the singer of Megadeth, endorsed Rick Santorum for president.
If you're not a fan of heavy metal, you might not know that Megadeth is one of the most popular metal bands of all time -- and they're certainly one of the most political bands in any music genre. Dave Mustaine actually covered the presidential race for MTV News in 1996.
As one of two MPP staffers who regularly listens to heavy metal, I can say with confidence that Dave Mustaine should have endorsed Ron Paul -- if Mustaine wanted to be at all representative of his fans.
Disciples of heavy metal are disproportionately libertarians: The anti-authority music lyrics go hand-in-hand with the anti-authoritarian policy positions of libertarians like Ron Paul.
Also, fans of heavy metal are more likely to be marijuana users than the average citizen. (If you don't believe me, go to an Ozzy Osbourne concert and breathe deeply.) So when Mustaine endorses Rick Santorum, Mustaine is basically saying that it is just fine with him if literally millions of his fans continue to face arrest ... for doing no harm to others.
On principal, Mustaine should have endorsed Ron Paul. And, even if only for selfish reasons, Mustaine should not have endorsed Rick Santorum, who seeks to incarcerate a large portion of the people who pay Mustaine's salary.
Vermont was the ninth state to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat certain illnesses, and now it may become the third to make post-traumatic stress disorder one of those qualifying illnesses. A new bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Masland, would allow patients afflicted with the serious psychological condition from war or other trauma to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest.
There are many people suffering from PTSD who have tried treating their symptoms with marijuana and have found it to be far more effective than the prescription pharmaceuticals they had been directed to use. Unfortunately, there is little scientific research to support their claims, and the federal government recently denied permission to study the potential benefits of marijuana for returning veterans.
If the law passes, Vermont will join New Mexico and Delaware as the only states to allow medical marijuana to be recommended for PTSD out of the 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that permit marijuana treatment for other conditions.
In June 2011, Vermont passed a bill that would regulate the establishment of four non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state.