Low-Level Marijuana Arrests Rise for Seventh Straight Year

Low-level arrests for marijuana possession in New York City increased for the seventh straight year in 2011, according to a study released Wednesday, despite a September memorandum from the police commissioner that officers should not arrest those with marijuana unless they have the drugs in plain view.

Though arrests dropped significantly after Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s memorandum, an increase of 6 percent during the first eight months of the year more than offset the decline, according to the analysis, conducted by a Queens College sociology professor and released by the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group critical of police marijuana-arrest policies.

The year-end arrest total was 50,684, up 0.6 percent from 2010, the study found, constituting more arrests than in the entire 19-year period 1978 to 1996. Marijuana possession was once again the largest arrest category in the city last year, and the arrests cost the city about $75 million, said Harry Levine, the sociologist who did the analysis.