More people were arrested last year in New York City for cannabis possession than in the entire 19-year period from 1978 to 1996, according to an analysis released Feb. 11 by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), drawing on figures from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. In 2010—the sixth year in a row that possession arrests increased—50,383 were busted for low-level cannabis offenses.
The figure adds up to 140 arrests a day, making cannabis possession the leading cause for arrest in the city—making up 15% of all arrests. The figure represents an 8% increase over 2009, and a 69% increase since 2005. From 1978 to 1996, there were 49,326 cannabis possession arrests in the city, according to an analysis for the alliance done by Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College and an expert on marijuana enforcement. The study finds that the Big Apple retains its title as the "Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World."
The increased enforcement, the DPA says, is due not to increasing consumption, but to harsher enforcement. "Over the last 20 years, NYPD. has quietly made arrests for marijuana their top enforcement priority, without public acknowledgment or debate," the group said. (NYT City Room blog, DPA press release, Feb. 15)