Few of those entering New York City's criminal justice system as a result of marijuana possession arrests become dangerous criminals, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch contends. Over the last 15 years, police have arrested more than 500,000 people – most of them young blacks or Hispanics – on misdemeanor charges of possessing small amounts of marijuana in public view. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the police have said the arrests have helped reduce violent crime, they have never specified how.
“Our findings support those of other researchers who question the public safety gains from massive marijuana arrests,” said the group’s Jamie Fellner. Using data from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services, Human Rights Watch tracked until mid-2011 the subsequent criminal records of nearly 30,000 people who had no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession in public view in 2003 and 2004. Ninety percent of the group had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent were subsequently convicted of one violent felony offense. An additional 0.4 percent had two or more violent felony convictions.