In New York City, year after year it is the most frequent reason a person is arrested. Statewide, New York’s marijuana arrest rate of 535 arrests per 100,000 people was the highest of any state in 2010 and double the national average. That year there were 103,698 marijuana-possession arrests in New York State – 29,000 more than Texas, the state with the next highest total.

Although arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana are common, their impact can be devastating. The consequences are often surprisingly drastic and completely disproportionate to the offense. Every aspect of a person’s life can be impacted by a marijuana arrest, including eligibility for public housing and student financial aid, job opportunities, child custody and even immigration status. Marijuana arrests are also financially burdensome, often coming with mandatory court fees, fines, costly legal services and court appearances that require time away from work and school or interfere with paying for child care.

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