Since 1977, it’s been technically legal in the State of New York to carry around a concealed bag of marijuana weighing less than 7/8 of an ounce. But you could be forgiven for not knowing this, since getting popped for petty pot possession is easier in New York City than anywhere else on the planet.
It’s a monumental injustice that owes its costly continuation to one simple tactic: tricking people into committing the crime of displaying their marijuana in plain sight:
What’s happening is that disproportionate numbers of black and brown young men, ages 16 to 29, are being duped into publicly revealing their allowable marijuana and then being arrested, thereby gaining a criminal record, advocates say. Police officers will say, “Empty your pockets!” turning a routine stop into an arrest and a police record.
“In 2010 in New York State, there were 54,000 marijuana arrests … 50,000 of them came from New York City, and — surprise, surprise — from neighborhoods that primarily are black, Latino and low income,” says Kyung Ji Kate Rhee, executive director of the IJJRA. “It’s not like these individuals had a felony charge and marijuana happened to be an additional charge … You’re telling me that 50,000 had marijuana in plain view? Does that sound right to you? After that initial point of police contact, they trick you into turning out your pockets.”
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