February 12, 2016

Marijuana activists arrested at Liberty Bell protest

National Park Service Police move in on the marijuana legalization protest "Smoke Down Prohibition" May 18, 2013

5/19/13 – Federal Park Rangers and Philadelphia City Police disrupted the monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” protest at the Liberty Bell calling for marijuana legalization and made several dramatic arrests.

On Saturday May 18, 2013 a crowd about 150 gathered in front of Independence Hall.

At 4:20PM, the moment when much of the crowd participates in civil disobedience by openly smoking cannabis, dozens of law enforcement moved into the crowd.

Those on stage speaking to the crowd were targeted for detainment, including one of the organizers.

Video: http://youtu.be/NTHBC6JOc4M

There were at least five arrests, including NA Poe of the comedy crew The Panic Hour.

Also arrested were Adam Kokesh host of AdamVsTheMan and Don DeZarn a New Jersey Libertarian candidate for US Senate.

Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion was briefly detained but released. One unidentified woman was roughly carried away but also quickly released.

The protests take place in front of Independence Hall permanently reserved by the National Park Service for First Amendment activity. Despite the targeted arrests and a heavy police presence, dozens in the crowd continued the action by openly smoking marijuana from 4:20PM-4:45PM.

At four previous “Smoke Down Prohibition” events there were no arrests or citations.

NA Poe and Adam Kokesh are still being held in the Federal Detention Facility at 7th and Arch Streets. A solidarity demonstration will take place in front of the jail today starting at 2:00PM.

“What was originally a rally to highlight issues regarding cannabis prohibition has shown that our First Amendment rights are not protected by the park rangers and police,” said PhillyNORML Executive Director Kevin Clough.

The Panic Hour issued this statement: “These arrests are the beginning of a long fight we have ahead of us to end cannabis prohibition and maintain our right to free speech.”

FB Solidarity Eventhttps://www.facebook.com/events/194482224036867/

The N.A. Poe Defense Fundhttp://fundly.com/the-n-a-poe-defense-fund




Quick Report: 26K Marijuana arrests in PA and Philadelphia

Marcher holding a volunteer-crafted sign at PhillyNORML

11/26/12 by Chris Goldstein – Pennsylvania maintains a crime reporting database that is almost unique in the United States for the excellent level of “sunshine.”  At PhillyNORML we’ve been analyzing the marijuana arrest data for many years.  Unlike other states – we can access detailed information about the marijuana arrests in every county or even down to individual precincts in a city. [Read more…]

New York City Marijuana Arrests Still Highest in Nation

Empire State NORML logo

12/8/2011 – New York City has the distinction of performing more marijuana arrests than anywhere else in the country; over 50,000 each year. This is almost double the annual arrests in the entire state of New Jersey and flies in the face of a New York State decriminalization law passed in 1979.

Reuter’s news service and WNYC are reporting this week that NYC Police said that arrests have dropped since September when Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly addressed the issue within the department. Kelly’s move followed intense media coverage of the racial disparity to the arrests (more than 90% are men of color) and the overly-harsh consequences of a pot arrest such as loss of parental rights.

Reuters story:

New York City police made 1,190 fewer marijuana arrests since Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s September 19 directive, compared to the same nine-week period a year ago, spokesman Paul Browne said.

A coalition of groups that has criticized the police force for its aggressive approach to marijuana possession called the numbers a “disappointing drop” and said New York City remains the “marijuana arrest capital of the world.”

“Unfortunately, these figures are cause for outrage, not celebration,” Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement. “In this economy, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD are wasting millions of tax dollars by using illegal searches and false charges to sweep tens of thousands of black and Latino youth into the criminal justice system.” read more

WNYC reveals that serious issues continue with marijuana prohibition enforcement in the Big Apple:

“We are still seeing on a daily basis cases where our clients are being arrested and charged with misdemeanors where according to them, they never possessed marijuana in public view,” said Scott Levy, an attorney with the Bronx Defenders.  “They possessed it in their pocket, in their clothing.” read more

New York State legislators also took a strong step in June to bring New York City in line with the state’s existing marijuana decriminalization policy.  The new bill, SB5187/AB7620, remains active in Albany.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

Maryjane’s Corner

Sensible Science

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com





Considering Decriminalization: NJ Marijuana Arrests

6/20/2011 – NJ Assemblyman Reed Gusciora is expected to introduce a bill this week to decriminalize the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana by adults. A look at the Uniform Crime Report from the NJ State Police reveals some striking statistics for marijuana arrests. The 2009 report contains the most recent published data available, although preliminary data on 2010 points to an increase for cannabis violations.

In 2009 the Garden State arrested 26, 254 people for marijuana. Eight-five percent of the arrests (22, 439) were for possession of less than 50 grams. Currently, adults caught with anything from a joint to two-ounces are treated the same way; with a custodial arrest and a criminal prosecution. [Read more…]

Legislation Would Stop New York City Marijuana Arrests

Empire State NORML logo

5/11/2011 – The number should be zero, but marijuana possession arrests in New York City have soared to over 50,000 per year. That’s almost as many pot arrests that are seen annually in New Jersey and Pennsylvania combined. A new bill has been introduced in Albany that is looking to solve this $75 million dollar problem.

SB 5187 would seek to make the Big Apple follow a 1977 New York state law that  removed the criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults. The bill makes for compelling reading as it succinctly and unequivocally reinforces cannabis decriminalization. [Read more…]

Listen up: WNYC on the racial disparity of pot arrests

Empire State NORML logo

WNYC, the local public radio station for America’s biggest metropolis, trained their microphones on the police practices concerning marijuana arrests. NYC has the dubious distinction of having the greatest number of marijuana arrests for any locality – it surpasses many whole states. Still, the urban police practice of targeting young, African-American marijuana consumers is not isolated to the Big Apple. Similar racial disparities exist in Philadelphia and likely in most other large cities.

Dr. Harry Levine with the Drug Policy Alliance issued a detailed report about the NYC arrests in March that has spurred increased attention to the issue.  $75 Million a Year: The Cost of New York City’s Marijuana Possession Arrests

The WNYC audio is embedded below but the full text story is also essential reading.

WNYC: Alleged Illegal Searches by NYPD May Be Increasing Marijuana Arrests

[This is the first story in a two-part series. Read the second part here.]

Police arrest 140 people every day in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana. It’s now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in the city, and thousands of these arrests take place when police stop-and-frisk young men in the poorest neighborhoods. While police say these stop-and-frisks are a way to find guns, what they find more often is a bag of marijuana.

An investigation by WNYC suggests that some police officers may be violating people’s constitutional rights when they are making marijuana arrests. Current and former cops, defense lawyers and more than a dozen men arrested for the lowest-level marijuana possession say illegal searches take place during stop-and-frisks, which are street encounters carried out overwhelmingly on blacks and Latinos.  READ FULL STORY


Philadelphia Saving Time and Money with New Pot Procedure

PhillyNORML's annual cannabis march on South Street takes place on Saturday May 21, 2011.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office is calling a new set of procedures for minor pot cases a success and plans to continue with the Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) program.

Last year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court worked with the new DA, Seth Williams, to make a pragmatic change in how the justice system deals with marijuana possession of 30 grams or less. A new program was created that includes a diversion court appearance, an education class and fees of $200. The major difference is that there is no longer an instant criminal prosecution. The offender pleads to a non-drug related charge that is automatically expunged from their record.

In January PhillyNORML’s Chris Goldstein spoke with Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Joe McGettigan about the new marijuana policy. McGettigan said that the SAM program is working, “Look, certainly this was a much better option than sending all these people into the criminal court last year for misdemeanors.”

The DA’s office provided the following figures related to the SAM program:

June 2010 to September 2010

1636 marijuana possession cases less than 30 grams TOTAL

339 bench warrants issued for failure to appear

1297 marijuana possession cases less than 30g are heard

1025 enter the Small Amount of Marijuana diversion program ( 79% )

81 went to trial

187 statuses continued

4 cases withdrawn

The procedural shift has eased penalties and a particularly harsh process for offenders. For the last two decades anyone in Philadelphia who was caught with a single joint on up to 30 grams was held for bail then prosecuted in a criminal court. This involves a tremendous amount of the justice system’s resources and the expensive procedure was almost unique in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

There are over 4,500 such cases in Philly every year (the largest concentration of pot arrests in PA) so minor marijuana offenses were literally clogging holding cells, bail officer, printing machines, court reporters, clerks, judges and courtrooms. The real world cost savings for the city this year by eliminating those expenses could tally into the millions.The shift also made a significant, tactile change; residents who consume marijuana and run afoul of prohibition laws have a less traumatic experience.

PhillyNORML’s Chris Goldstein said, “This was a positive shift for the city. Still minor marijuana possession arrests are increasing and continue a disturbing trend of being extremely racially disparate.”

An average of about 325 black men, 50 black women, 95 white men and 8 white women will be arrested every month this year in Philadelphia.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

Philadelphia: Marijuana arrests remain high

Oklahoma Mom Jailed for 12 Years on Minor Marijuana Offense

Patricia Spottedcrow puts her things away and greets other prisoners in her dorm-style building at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center on the first day of her incarceration at the site. Spottedcrow received a 12-year prison sentence for selling a small amount of marijuana to a police informant with her children present in Kingfisher. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World

Please sign the Change.org petition now to free Patricia

Patricia M. Spottedcrow of Kingfisher, OK was featured in a Tulsa World article on Feb. 20 and published in media across the state through the nonprofit journalism group Oklahoma Watch.

The 25-year-old received a 12-year prison sentence in October after selling a total of $31 in marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, was also charged.

In blind guilty pleas before a judge, Spottedcrow received prison time while her mother received a 30-year suspended sentence.

The judge said Spottedcrow’s four young children being in the home at the time of the drug buys prompted the higher sentences. Neither she nor her mother had prior criminal convictions.

The judge said in a previous interview that first-time offenders are not usually sent to prison. Instead, other alternatives including treatment, are typically found.

Oklahoma City attorney Josh Welch read the story and said he decided to represent her without charge.

“I’m familiar with that county and had other cases there and what happened is so egregious and wrong,” Welch said.

Spottedcrow must serve at least 50 percent of her sentence before being eligible for parole, Welch said.

When Spottedcrow was taken from court to the jail to start her prison sentence, some marijuana was found in her jacket pocket. She received a two-year concurrent sentence for drug possession.

A state Department of Corrections pre-sentencing report stated Spottedcrow was highly likely to re-offend and did not seem to take the charges seriously.

“Let’s say everything said about this woman is true. … It’s barbaric and prehistoric to have a 12-year sentence for that and have to serve 50 percent,” Welch said. “It’s illogical.” Read more.

Spottedcrow Facebook Page

Please sign the Change.org petition now to free Patricia


Big Apple Goes Green with Most Expensive Pot in America

Empire State NORML logo

Marijuana consumers in New York City already know that pot prices are sky high. But how about dropping a cool grand on a few grams? Professor Harry Levine and the Drug Policy Alliance released a landmark report this week showing that NYC sinks $75 million dollars annually into arrests for small amounts of marijuana. Read the full report

“We are spending all of this money to basically to get nickel bags, dime bags … a joint,” Levine said at a press conference last Thursday.

That would equate to $1,500 per nick’ or joint, assuring that New York City taxpayers own the most expensive pot in the country. Too bad no one will get to enjoy it. [Read more…]

Philadelphia: Marijuana arrests remain high

I am your neighbor and I smoke pot

"I am your neighbor and I smoke pot" sign at PhillyNORML march 2010

Each year PhillyNORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, looks at the marijuana arrest data for the city. The information comes directly from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System.

Here are the numbers for 2009, the most recent data available:

There were 6, 402 marijuana related arrests by Philadelphia City Police in 2009. These were stand-alone violations not in conjunction with other crime.

4, 656 were adults arrested for simple possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana.

Of the adults arrested for simple marijuana possession more than 75% were 18-29 years old (3,129) and 91% were men (4,251).

The trend of white women being the group who have the least amount of annual possession arrests was true again with just 104 all year; less than 10 per month.

[Read more…]