|“42nd Street Subway Arrest NYC 1975”|
Stop and frisk.
If you’ve ever smoked weed in New York City, you know that those three little words can do more than kill your buzz, in many cases they have ruined people’s lives. The city’s newly elected Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a change to the discriminatory and highly controversial policy, and more specifically how it will impact those busted with some buds in the Big Apple.
Since 1977, New York state law states that possessing up to 25 grams of weed is a misdemeanor level crime only if the pot is in “public view”. Otherwise, it’s just a violation and a fine.
So, every day New York citizens are routinely stopped by police and ordered to empty their pockets – Stop and Frisk it’s called. If your pockets happen to have a dimebag of Diesel in them, but the cop tells you to take it out, then guess what? It’s now in “public view”.
While many of these cases eventually get tossed out of court, the arrest stays on the citizen’s record, the police are tied down writing up silly reports, the courts get clogged up, and of course, way too many cases slip through and end up in jail time.
This shitty Stop and Frisk technique led to New York State being 2nd in the nation in per capita pot arrests, with nearly 93,000 people a year having their records stained with such a trivial offense.
And, of course, just like everywhere else in this country, blacks are way more likely to face this abuse of power than whites – 4.52 times more likely in New York, in fact.
In May of 2013, the State Assembly voted to close the Stop and Frisk loophole, but the bill was shot down immediately in the Senate.
But this Monday, New York City officials announced a sweeping change in law enforcement policy in the city when it comes to cases involving cannabis.
Now cops who pop people with under 25 grams of pot – even in public view – will have the option to make it a $100 fine with no arrest, similar to the previous law regarding concealed bags of weed.
Though it still leaves a lot of power and judgment in the hands of average beat cops, the idea is that it will severely discourage the Stop and Frisk trick.
Mayor de Blasio proudly stood behind the city’s announcement, saying it’s “a smart policy that keeps New Yorkers safe, but it is also a more fair policy”.
Local politicians, district attorneys, and civil rights leaders all praised the move, recognizing it as a step in the right direction. Even the president of the police captain’s union acknowledged that it would help to repair the trust between the community and the officers charged to protect it if they aren’t bogged down busting low-level potheads.
Not everyone is happy, however. A man named Patrick J. Lynch from something called the “Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association” is up in arms about the new strategy.
Lynch (nice name), who likes to use the term “The War on Cops” when he is claiming that police officers do not have enough firepower, says, “We do not want police officers left holding the bag if crime rises because of poor policy.”
Cool, we don’t want them holding our bag either, bro.
From 1978 to 1995, weed-related arrests in NYC averaged around 2,100 per year. With the implementation of the Stop and Frisk loophole, those numbers began to spike, with a peak of over 50,000 cannabis arrests in the city alone in 2011.
Some officials say that the new policy is merely a good first step, and that the relief that the criminal courts may get will likely result in a glut of cases in the already-crowded Summons court.
Even if it is just a first step, it sure is nice to see that the city that never sleeps has finally begun to wake up when it comes to cannabis reform.