New York Mayor: Minor Marijuana Possession No Longer Means Jail Time

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Friday that he was eliminating jail custody for low-level marijuana possession.

Bloomberg made the announcement in his State of the City address Thursday:

“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. 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.”

New York is one of 14 states which have implemented some form of marijuana decriminalization — in addition to 18 states that have legalized medicinal marijuana, and two states that have legalized recreational use.

According to CBS News, a 2012 Drug Policy Alliance report revealed that marijuana possession was the largest category for arrests in the city during 2011, and that figure has been steadily growing for seven years. In fact, based on the Drug Policy Alliance report, New York City has one of the highest arrest rates in the world for marijuana.

A 1977 New York State law made low-level marijuana possession a non-arrestable offense unless in public view. But according to critics, many arrests made are the result of New York’s “stop and frisk” policy, by which officers ask people to empty their pockets and then make arrests for public display of marijuana. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said that he didn’t believe many arrests were made that way, but statistics might indicate otherwise.

In the last five years, the NYPD — under Mayor Bloomberg — has arrested more individuals for marijuana than they did in the 24 years between 1978 and 2001.

It seems most have hailed New York Mayor Bloomberg’s decision as a step in the right direction.

Will the Mayor’s new policy improve things? Can we expect New York’s Mayor Bloomberg to follow through with his promise and downgrade low-level possession from a misdemeanor to a violation?