Contact: gabriel sayegh 646-335-2264, Jeremy Saunders 917-676-8041 or Kyung Ji Rhee 347-712-0259</p>
New York — On Tuesday November 27th at 4pm, community members, elected officials, and New Yorkers for Public Health & Safety will stand on the steps of City Hall to demand equity and fairness in our city and an end to illegal, racially-biased and costly marijuana arrests. New York State decriminalized private possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977 to preserve scarce police resources and prevent needless criminalization. But the NYPD has made marijuana possession arrests their number one priority. Research finds that most people arrested for marijuana possession did not have it in public view (a misdemeanor), but had a small amount in a pocket and were either tricked by the police to reveal it or were illegally searched. These individuals are then falsely charged for possessing marijuana in public view, and arrested. In the last five years under Bloomberg, the NYPD made more marijuana arrests than in the twenty-four years under Mayors Giuliani, Dinkins and Koch combined.
Despite support from Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, NYPD Commissioner Kelly, and the New York City Council, Senate Republicans blocked a reform bill in the closing days of this year’s state legislative session. Under the proposal, smoking in public would remain an arrestable offense but NYPD officers could no longer arrest people for “marijuana in public” by tricking people to pull marijuana out of their pockets during a stop-and-frisk – the vast majority of NYC’s annual 50,000 marijuana arrests are made in this manner. A coalition of advocates are planning a big push to ensure the bill passes in 2013.
Human Rights Watch’s new report Red Herring: Marijuana Arrestees Do Not Become Violent Offenders confirms what many already know: marijuana arrests do not improve New York’s public safety, and are unlawful, wasteful, and racially discriminatory. In 2011, there were 50,684 marijuana possession arrests, the top arrest and second highest in New York City history, despite Police Commissioner Kelly’s directive last year to end such arrests. Even though young whites use marijuana at higher rates, nearly 85 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession are Black and Latino, and most are under 30 years old. These arrests cost taxpayers more than $75 million a year, even while communities lose public libraries, fire stations and after-school programs. This new report is all the more reason for the New York State legislature to end unlawful marijuana arrests.
What: Press conference about Human Rights Watch’s new report Red Herring: Marijuana Arrestees Do Not Become Violent Offenders and rally to support marijuana decriminalization bill.
When: Tuesday November 27 4pm
Where: City Hall Steps
Who: Elected officials, Human Right Watch report co-author, impacted people, and New Yorkers for Health and Safety