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September 2011
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a… victory

For those who haven’t heard, there was some pretty huge news on Friday in New York:

Police Commissioner Calls on NYPD to Stop Improper Marijuana Arrests

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has issued an internal order to the New York City Police Department commanding officers to stop arresting people for small amounts of marijuana possession, if the marijuana was never in public view. The directive comes at a time when the NYPD is taking increasing heat about alleged improper marijuana arrests.

Kelly’s Operations Order landed on the desk of police supervisors this week, and a copy of it was provided to WNYC.

The order says:

Questions have been raised about the processing of certain marihuana arrests. At issue is whether the circumstances under which uniformed members of the service recover small amounts of marihuana (less than 25 grams) from subjects in a public place support the charge of Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree[…]

The specific circumstances in question include occasions when the officers recover marihuana pursuant to a search of the subject’s person or upon direction of the subject to surrender the contents of his/her pockets or other closed container. A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marihuana.

Given how many arrests there have been in New York, and how much it appears that this stop-and-frisk technique has been used on a regular basis to trick subjects into becoming “arrest-able,” this is a huge victory.

And it’s happening because of the work that so many reformers have done in terms of bringing these outrageous practices to light.

And yet…

It’s a bittersweet victory.

It seems oddly pathetic to get excited about a police commissioner suggesting to the police that they obey the law and stop violating the rights of individuals.

The laws on the books are ones we want to eliminate and yet we’re having to work to get the police to only enforce those laws and not create new ones themselves.

And yes, we should be happy about what has been accomplished and the number of people who may now benefit (although it doesn’t help all those who have been arrested in the past, nor does it stop an officer from doing it anyway and claiming they didn’t).

So, I’m very excited about this victory…

but still…

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25 comments to a… victory

  • […] service," the Voice has …New York City Alters Rules on Marijuana ArrestsOpposing Viewsa… victoryDrug WarRantRay Kelly Scolds NYPD: Marijuana Is Decriminalized If Not In "Public […]

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  • pt

    so, when it does happen again, can a defendant use this directive against the officer in court? I don’t think cops are going to want to give up their little gravy train of easy marijuana arrests so easy.

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    • darkcycle

      No, it’s only their ARREST policy. The law is still “public view”. As far as it goes, it relies on police officers voluntarily adhering to the directive. It’s only an official ‘suggestion’.
      But it is a step in the right direction.

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  • divadab

    Sorry – this is not a “victory” – merely a reminder of how far we have fallen, a small pyrrhic win in a skirmish in a losing war against the forces of authoritarianism.

    The police in New York apparently use the same tactics as the corrupt Wall St. banks – that is, they rely on tricking people to make money. Just another institution corrupted by a prohibition which is based on LIES – it has no virtuous outcomes because it is not virtuous at its root.

    Aren;t these the same guys who pepper spray the eyes of young, non-violent women whose only “crime” is exercising their first amendment rights? Fascist bully fuckhead tools.

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    • Duncan20903

      Don’t censor yourself. Share your feelings with the group.
      ~ Butthead
      ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———-
      You know, if I had to describe what pisses me off the most about the authorities in this country it’s the betrayal of trust and acceptance of systemic lies as their standard modi operandi.

      When I see a standard issue citizen parroting the lies he’s been fed by the authorities I don’t see a fool, I see a person that’s been betrayed. The people have a right to the truth from authority. If they’re told “cannabis will give you pink and purple spots on your face and turn your tongue green” well goddammit they have a right to expect that it’s true. It’s hardly reasonable to expect people to be so sophisticated as to be informed of the arcana of every aspect of life. Were that true there would be no need for authority. It’s also just not the case in most of the so called “first world” countries. Can you imagine US authorities doing this:

      Pot and politics

      Published on September 26, 2011
      Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post

      A new article published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health suggests that the country’s public health practitioners should be educating Canadian citizens on the potential risks associated with marijuana use as opposed to simply advocating for total abstinence.

      At the risk of using an inapt metaphor, that suggestion is like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the torrent of hot air generated by the Conservative government’s omnibus crime legislation tabled on Sept. 20.

      But it could be argued that the article’s authors were wasting their breath because the omnibus crime legislation — which will eventually be passed under Stephen Harper’s majority government — includes longer mandatory minimum sentences for growing marijuana, not to mention doubling the maximum sentence from seven to 14 years.

      A movement toward decriminalization would open things up for public health practitioners to disseminate the valuable information included in the new CJPH article, including its “lower risk cannabis guidelines.”

      The Conservative government’s new crime legislation will instead likely stifle that potential for education.
      /snip/

      http://www.capebretonpost.com/Opinion/Editorial/2011-09-26/article-2759555/Pot-and-politics/1

      Then again the Canadians are just plain weird. They’re moving in two diametrically opposed directions at once, with the Harper sycophants trying to embrace the stupidity of American “zero intelligence tolerance” and another faction trying to actually be the authorities that people expect and deserve. I don’t believe the situation can persist. It’s either one or the other.

      Place your bets.
      ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———-

      Say, does anyone know why the Houston Chronicle has developed such a taste for news about anything cannabis? In the last 30 days I don’t think they’ve missed a story from anywhere in the US.

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      • divadab

        “The Houston Chronicle is the largest daily paper owned and operated by the Hearst Corporation”.

        Need I say more?

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        • darkcycle

          Hmmmm….

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        • Duncan20903

          .
          .
          Interesting, but did they just purchase the Houston paper? There’s no slant to their articles so it certainly isn’t 1930s Hearst yellow journalism at work. The style is plain just the facts ma’am. But it keeps showing up on lists for stories which are only covered by local to the event media. For example, except for the Chronicle all the others covering the story below are Mississippi media. It’s just very peculiar behavior.

          I-10 traffic stop nets 50 pounds of marijuana headed to Moss Point
          Mississippi Press (blog) – Cherie Ward – ‎6 hours ago‎

          “During the investigation, agents learned the marijuana was being smuggled to a house in the city of Moss Point,” Lt. Curtis Spiers, commander of the task force said. The driver, and only occupant, 29-year-old Cortez Lamond Croon was arrested and …

          More than 50 pounds of pot found in traffic stop Houston Chronicle

          Agents: 50lbs of pot was headed to Moss Point WLOX

          Large Pot Bust on Interstate 10 WKRG-TV

          SunHerald.com

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  • Hope

    Divadab, I sense you’re in the Grand Funk Place…a place all reformers have to go from time to time. Sorry. It’s an awful place to be, but you’ll come out of it and your courage and hope will return. It feels better anyway than the damned Grand Funk Place and it is better, because you’re standing for something again.

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    • darkcycle

      Good lord, the Grand Funk Place..You didn’t take the RAILROAD, did you? Divadab, that can only lead to one thing…Sequined Jumpsuits and Platform shoes. Don’t do it man, get some coffee with me Wed. instead. Asha is at daycare Wed. morning. You around then?

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  • Hope

    From the article, “More than 85 percent of those arrested for marijuana in New York City are blacks and Latinos in the poorest neighborhoods where the highest rates of stop-and-frisk occur. National studies show young whites smoke pot more than blacks and Latinos of the same age.”

    The injustice of that is just breath taking to me. It should be to everyone.

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  • OT yet so ON topic:

    Judge rules part of Patriot Act unconstitutional

    “For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised,” she wrote.

    By asking her to dismiss Mayfield’s lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general’s office was “asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.”

    Nicely said!

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  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    Well I’m sad to see that I wasn’t the only one to think great news, will the line officers comply?

    pt, unless I’m grossly misinformed there haven’t been very many convictions attached to these arrests. As I recall the prosecutors have been tossing them as fast as they land on their desk, particularly the the Bronx DA’s office. But then the Bronx DA seems to think he’s Jack McCoy. He even prosecutes cops who testi-lie:
    http://bronxda.nyc.gov/information/2009/case8.htm
    ———-

    OK, now I see there are people taking convictions, but only when the arresting officer remembers to forget to mention that the defendant had the cannabis in his pocket.

    I’m not sure how much hope we should have that cops who are willing to bald faced lie in an arrest report are going to follow orders to stop making these arrests. It seems to me this order from the Chief may be no more than an exercise in public relations.

    Chief: “hey, quit doing that” nudge nudge, wink wink
    Cop: “say no more, you’re da boss.”

    Jeannette Rucker, a supervising prosecutor at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, heads the Complaint Room, where prosecutors first review police paperwork before they bring formal charges. She reads thousands of police reports about marijuana arrests.

    “When an officer charges somebody for ‘marijuana open to public view,’ when they write in their paperwork that they found it in the defendant’s pants pocket, I have to dismiss it,” said Rucker.

    Rucker (Photo left) said her office throws out 10 to 15 misdemeanor marijuana cases everyday because the police paperwork states the marijuana was actually not in public view. These cases she chalks up to honest mistakes. But if a cop lies in his report – and fails to mention that the marijuana was actually found in someone’s clothing – Rucker said there’s no way for her office to know that without a further investigation.

    That creates a substantial problem for defendants who were wrongfully arrested. Rucker said in most cases, prosecutors don’t even interview arresting officers until after a defendant is arraigned – but she said too many defendants plead guilty right at their first court appearances. Therefore, Rucker said defendants who think they’ve been illegally searched or otherwise improperly arrested have to stand up for themselves right at the beginning of a case.

    Marijuana possession is now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in the city. Defense lawyers say if everyone with a marijuana charge actually fought his or her case to the fullest, the already overextended court system would grind to a halt.
    “People can’t afford to fight a case,” said longtime public defender Ed McCarthy (Photo right), who supervises a small staff of Legal Aid lawyers at Night Court in Lower Manhattan.

    McCarthy said challenging a charge can mean coming back to court eight to 10 more times for the next year and a half.

    “‘I have to be home to pick up my kid, I have to get to my job tonight. I have to do a million things other than come back and forth and sit on a bench in a courtroom for six hours to hear that the People aren’t ready or to hear that there’s no courtrooms available,’ which is such a common thing here.”

    McCarthy said therefore most of his clients just plead guilty right away.

    http://www.bronxdefenders.org/press/bronx-defenders-wnyc-article-about-marijuana-arrests-part-2

    As far as direct consequences are concerned the arrest and jail time waiting for the initial arraignment are the worst part. If NYC is anything like DC someone arrested on a Friday evening will sit in jail until Monday (Tuesday on a holiday weekend) before being arraigned. If fighting the charge means another hundred hours in the courtroom to hear, at worst, “guilty, time served” there’s not much motivation to do that unless you’re worried about having a record. The regulars here see that as a major piece of motivation to fight the charge, but in poor communities without much hope of a better future and perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 of your peers in the same boat not so much. “Just get it over with. My boss doesn’t care about a pot conviction, he’s on parole for (major felony).”

    The black people in West Baltimore have a significantly different perspective on life than the white people in the suburban middle/upper middle class. I’d expect life is similar in the parts of New York that aren’t on the lily white side of town. Before I acquired my business interests in WB I had no clue just how different things were. IMO “The Wire” is as close to being a documentary as fiction can be. The biggest flaws I found in that series was when they’d say “that was at the intersection of xxxx Ave & yyyy St” which actually run parallel to each other.

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  • divadab

    Hope – thanks! I am always hopeful – just disgusted!

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  • vickyvampire

    Yes a step in the right direction now if they could bring back CBGBS and smoking the bars and rats running the streets oh the great days of New York.

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    • darkcycle

      I spent the summer of ’75 (or six? I can’t even recall) in NYC. When Washington Park was still owned by stoners and Greenwich was really happening. Ah, the urine soaked subways, the puke-cigarette smell of the cabs, and every where…wildlife! Rats as big as cats, body-builder roaches, pigeons with uncanny aim…
      I also remember having access to a nearly unlimited supply of fresh, closet grown mushrooms then…

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  • Nunavut Tripper

    Thanks Duncan for bringing the dire Canadian situation to everyone’s attention. The “Safe Streets and Communities Act”
    was tabled last Tuesday and will probably become law within a few months.It has mandatory minumum sentences for more than 5 plants and maximum sentences of 14 years for over 200 plants. PM Steven Harper and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson clearly have no firsthand knowledge of cannabis and are not interested in listening to anyone who has.Stevie once said that “nice people” ( like him of course) will never be associated with marijuana.

    No one knows for sure how many billions of dollars the new crime legislation will cost if made law, but it’s estimated that Canadians pay over $100,000 a year per inmate. Just one part of the new bill – the one that relates to drugs and includes mandatory minimum prison sentences for minor marijuana offences – is expected to quickly add 3,000 – 5,000 inmates to Canada’s overpopulated prison system. Add the other eight sections of the bill and the price of building new prisons and you end up with a stack of cash almost too big to flush down the toilet.
    We’re a small country and can’t afford this crap with our health care and education systems strapped for cash.
    We often muse that the business community and LE is bribing politicians to enforce prohibition but I can’t help but feel that big pharma is getting a free ride from these two Christian fundamentalist assholes.

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    • Duncan20903

      .
      .
      Well he’s right, I’m a total freakin’ jerk. Wait, or am I a total jerkin’ freak? Well, never mind that anyway. I don’t even hold a candle to darkcycle. For recreation he lurks at busy traffic intersections waiting to trip little old ladies, and sneaks into people’s car engine compartments and replaces their window washer fluid with used motor oil. His happiest memory was when by pure happenstance a driver who was suddenly blinded by a windshield unexpectedly covered with used motor oil actually ran down one of his little old ladies. He cackled in evil glee for months after that one, “wham! pow! look at granny fly!! I never thought she could get so high!!” …and I thought I was mean blocking people’s exhaust pipes with potatoes until I heard that.

      Believe me, it’s not speculation when he speaks of the plans of evil men as in his post below. That’s the voice of experience talking.

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  • darkcycle

    N.T., that really is the plan. Divide society, bankrupt the government to dismantle any vestige of the social safety net, and then imprison surplus population at huge profits for their cronies. Problems solved.

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  • warren

    They were pigs in the 60`s 70`s 80`s 90`s and there still pigs and will be in my book, FOREVER.

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  • claygooding

    NT,,
    Calling Canada a small country is like saying Rhode Island is huge.
    Canada may be one of the least populated countries,inhabitants per sq mile,,,but it sure ain’t a small country.

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  • Dj

    Prisoners being held for the peaceful,non-violent possession,sale,transport or cultivation of cannabis must be released http://wh.gov/gf3
    I just started a petition on the White House petitions site, We the People.
    Will you sign it? http://wh.gov/gf3
    We the People allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama
    Administration to take action on a range of issues. If a petition gets
    enough support, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.

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