Congrats New York City, your mayor finally listened to something you had to say. Starting next month, having a bag of weed out in public won’t necessarily mean jail time like it does currently. As long as you have an ID on you and no warrants, the boy (or girl) in blue will be letting you go.
New York’s marijuana laws for small amounts technically are already somewhat lax, at least on paper. Possession of 25 grams or less was decriminalized in 1977 and can get you at most a $100 fine.
But here’s the thing: people are hardly ever charged with just that in New York City. Instead, the police bust people for the larger crime of open and public display, which is a misdemeanor carrying a $250 fine and up to 90 days in jail. As any stoner in New York City can tell you, the police write that ticket and arrest people for that all the time by simply asking people to see what is in their (otherwise) concealed, private pocket.
The stats show it as well. More than 50,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession in New York City every year – mostly black people and Latinos who are up to seven times more likely to be arrested than their pot-smoking white counterparts.
As it is now, a person found with ganja “on display” would be hauled down to the jail where they would wait – sometimes up to a day and a half – until seen by a judge.
Starting next month, you’ll just get a ticket to appear in court.
“We know that there’s more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg Thursday. “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.”
We’re glad he finally gets it. Especially since marijuana arrests have skyrocketed during his administration.
But it could be less about relaxing on his stance and more to do with money. The move is going to save the city a boatload of cash. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the city spent $150 million on marijuana arrests in 2010 and 2011 combined.
“Marijuana possession is the number one arrest in New York City and with this new policy change, tens of thousands of people, mostly young men of color, will no longer be held in jail overnight on for possessing small amounts of marijuana,” said Gabriel Sayegh, NY director for DPA, in a press release.