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NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Restates Support For Fixing New York’s Broken Marijuana Policy

Effective next month, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in New York will not be held in custody overnight, says Mayor Bloomberg.

New York City is currently the marijuana arrest capitol of the world, with over 50,000 arrests for marijuana offenses in 2011 alone. Of those arrests, almost 94% had no prior convictions and just about 50% had never even been arrested before. In addition, New York City police officers stopped ‘random’ citizens to perform what they call a “stop-and-frisk” 685,724 times in 2011, and 329,897 times in 2012. According to an analysis done by New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), about 87% of the interrogated people in 2011 were either black or Latino. The same analysis showed that a little over 40% of the people stopped in 2011 were either black or Latino between the ages of 14 and 24. This is despite the fact that they only make 4.7% of the population in NYC.

“New York City police officers stopped ‘random’ citizens to perform what they call a “stop-and-frisk” 685,724 times in 2011, and 329,897 times in 2012.”

Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, publicly accused NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of failing to take responsibility for the racist and unwarranted stop-and-frisk policy exactly a year ago today. “It’s racial profiling, it’s racism, and it’s having dire consequences in our city,” Stringer explained, “I am calling on Mayor Bloomberg to step out of the shadow of Commissioner Kelly and lead on this issue. You cannot hide anymore on an issue that is so compelling.”

Some would say Stringer had a point, considering the 2011 figure (685,724) was a 600 percent increase from the first year Bloomberg took office nearly 10 years prior. Current marijuana law in NY allows for the possession of small amounts of cannabis for person use (punishable by a ticket), but possession of cannabis (or smoking it) in public remains a class B misdemeanor that carries a $250 fine and a 90-day maximum sentence. The policy costs taxpayers about 75 million dollars a year in police force and prosecution costs.

Today, Mayor Bloomberg publicly restated his support for fixing New York’s marijuana laws, announcing his city will not wait while Albany stalls on the issue:

“Two years ago, as part of our Young Men’s Initiative, we helped convince the State to stop sending many juvenile offenders to upstate facilities that were failing them in every possible way. Our ‘Close to Home’ program keeps these young people connected to their families and communities. It’s been a big success so far, and we’ll expand it this year.

“It’s consistent with the law, it’s the right thing to do and it will allow us to target police resources where they’re needed most.” Mayor Bloomberg

But we know that there’s more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record. Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor and we’ll work to help him pass it this year. But we won’t wait for that to happen.Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We’re changing that. Effective next month, anyone presenting an ID and clearing a warrant check will be released directly from the precinct with a desk appearance ticket to return to court.” – Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

You know there is an apparent problem when iPhone applications are coming out based around the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk’s. The NYCLU unveiled their version of “Stop and Frisk Watch” to the iPhone app store last week that allows bystanders to document and alert community members when a stop-and-frisk is in progress. Stop and Frisk Watch has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times by New Yorkers since its Android release in June. The app even comes with a section titled “Know Your Rights” that informs people of their rights when confronted by a police officer.


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