by Camille Sykes.
My worst nightmare came true early this semester. A cold bench, a party dress and a jail door slam were my reality early one Monday morning.
I was standing outside a friend’s apartment when a police officer approached me. She asked to search me and my purse for marijuana. Though she found no evidence, the officer asked me to put my hands behind my back to go “downtown.” As she handcuffed me I asked, “ Why are you arresting me?” She replied, “Because you look suspicious.”
It seems like a lot of people are looking suspicious now a days. In 2010, more people were arrested for marijuana possession than the entire period from 1978-1996, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Last year alone 50,383 individuals were arrested in New York City.
After Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office in 2002 over 350,000 have been taken into custody. This number adds up to 140 marijuana arrests a day. About 70 percent of the individuals charged are under the age of 30 and 86 percent are African American and Latino.
Since 1977, marijuana possession of anything less than 25 grams was a violation and not jail time. Paraphernalia is the top reason for arrests in the city and has increased to 69 percent since 2005. Apparently, no other city continually sends civilians into custody for minor possession charges with harsh enforcement that ends up in jail time.
Jail is where I ended up for over 17 hours.
At the precinct, I repeatedly asked the officer, “Why are you doing this? I have an internship I have to be at in 4 hours, I have never been in trouble in my life!” She could never give me a concrete answer. “You were the only one moving when I walked by you and your friends and it smelled like weed,” said the officer. She told me that I should not be standing outside.
When I explained numerous times that I was heading downtown to meet some friends, clearly in a party dress and heels,” she told me, “Let this be a lesson learned.”
Lesson for what? I was arrested with no evidence after I was searched.
I recently went to court for this charge. I felt pressured to plead guilty and pay a fine. As a college student, pleading guilty to drug possession could make you ineligible for financial aid. So I demanded to speak to an attorney to tell my side of the story. The judge agreed the charge was ridiculous and threw the case out.
Here’s the lesson I really learned: Many marijuana arrests are overzealous and the consequences are completely unfair. Don’t apart of these outrageous statistics in the city of New York.