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Ray Kelly Orders NYPD To Stop Arresting Minimal Pot Possessors

First Posted: 09/23/11 07:54 PM ET Updated: 09/23/11 07:54 PM ET

Sour Diesel

Looks like New York might no longer be the capital of marijuana-related arrests.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly sent an internal memo (posted by WNYC) to the NYPD telling departments to stop arresting people who possess small amounts of marijuana.

Under the current law, possession of less than 25 grams is a misdemeanor crime, not a criminal offense, and carries a maximum $100 fine. For an arrest to take place someone must be openly burning pot, but that's not usually the case.

In 2010 an astounding 50,383 people were arrested in New York for having marijuana on them, which accounted for nearly 15% of all arrests -- making it the #1 reason for arrests. A recent lawsuit alleges that the NYPD's aggresive stop-and-frisk program unfairly targets Black and Latino youths, many of whom are tossed in jail over minor pot offensives.

Police arrest nearly 140 people per day for marijuana possession, which is often a result of an illegal search, as WNYC reported. In fact this broken system costs New Yorker tax payers a whopping $75 million a year.

The law has often proved overly harsh on possession, including the case of Penelope Harris, who had her son and niece taken away from her after police found 10 grams of pot in her house.

The order comes at a time when Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg have been harshly criticized for the huge spike in marijuana-related arrests.

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Filed by Jonah Green  |