NEW YORK TIMES: For marijuana smokers in the right neighborhoods, there is no need to go out for supplies. A dealer-businessman will come right to the door, sit at the dining room table and open a box that looks as if it could be used to display herbal tea choices in restaurants. This particular case, however, is used to show varieties of cannabis — weed — and the businessman will annotate the flavor and potency of his offerings. Bought and smoked behind closed doors, the pot in such transactions has almost no risk of attracting attention from law enforcement. That was not the system used by Joseph Griffin, then 18, one summer night in the East New York section of Brooklyn. He walked a few blocks down Herkimer Street, made a purchase and headed back to smoke it at home.
“The plainclothes officers pulled up, and they asked me where I was going,” Mr. Griffin said. “I said, ‘Home.’ They jumped out. They was patting me down. He went into my pocket and found it. Then they put the handcuffs on.” Mr. Griffin spent the night in one jail or another, taken from the precinct station to central booking and then to the courthouse in Brooklyn. Up to that point, his case had absorbed the energy of two police officers, a desk sergeant, a clerk who processed his paperwork and fingerprints, a driver who transported him to booking, other officers to secure him in the pen awaiting his appearance, a Legal Aid Society lawyer, an assistant district attorney, a court clerk and a court reporter to transcribe the proceedings. Also, a judge, who instantly dismissed the case.
How much pot did Mr. Griffin have in his pocket that night? I had a blunt,” he said. A blunt, or marijuana cigarette, contains about one gram of marijuana, about the weight of a dash of salt. Mr. Griffin had been charged with the lowest-level misdemeanor on the books, Section 221.10, Subsection 1 of the New York State Penal Code. That statute makes it a crime to burn or openly display even small amounts of marijuana. Since Michael R. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002, no crime has been more frequently charged: more than 440,000 people have been arrested solely on this misdemeanor charge. Whites use marijuana at higher rates than other racial groups, studies have found, but are rarely accused of “openly displaying” it. Depending on the year, 85 percent to 90 percent of those facing that charge are African-American or Latino. Most are under 20. MORE
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