Arrests for Marijuana in NYC No Longer Mean Night in Jail

| by

Those caught with small amounts of marijuana in New York City will no longer have to spend the night in jail, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent announcement.

Bloomberg said in his final State of the City address that from next month forward, any person arrested for marijuana possession will not spend the night in jail, and will be asked instead to show ID and pass a warrant check. Those meeting the requirements will be immediately released and given a court date.

He hopes this new change will free up police resources to target more important things.

“Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We’re changing that,” he said. “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.”

This is just a recent step in Bloomberg’s effort to change the way New York handles marijuana cases.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a bill to decriminalize possession of marijuana under 15 grams, and Bloomberg supports it.

“We know that there’s more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record. Commissioner [Ray] 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,” Bloomberg said.

The city currently has one of the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession worldwide. Over the past decade, there have been 400,083 low-level marijuana possession arrests, costing the city nearly $600 million. Between 2007 and 2011, the New York Police Department made more arrests in five years than during the 24 years Mayors Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Rudolph Giuliani were in office.

Many recent arrests, according to Drug Policy Alliance, were a result of the police stop-and-frisk program, which recently expanded. Last year, the NYPD stopped and frisked 533,042 people, and in 89 percent of those cases, the suspects were innocent of crime, but many were also arrested for holding small amounts of marijuana.

The program was also criticized for disproportionately targeting black and Latino citizens, as 55 percent of those stopped were black and 32 percent were Latino.