Monday, June 04, 2012

Bloomberg Supports Cuomo's Call To Revise New York Marijuana Possession Laws

Arrests for marijuana possession are among the top crimes caught under the NYPD's Stop and Frisk policy. That policy has been under attack for its disproportionate focus on minorities throughout the city.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has now floated a proposal to reduce the penalty for possession of a joint to a violation, essentially decriminalizing the possession of amounts under 25 grams.
Mr. Bloomberg, whose administration had previously defended low-level marijuana arrests as a way to deter more serious crime, said in a statement that the governor’s proposal “strikes the right balance” in part because it would still allow the police to arrest people who were smoking marijuana in public.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, plans to hold a news conference at the Capitol on Monday to announce his plans to seek the change in state law. Administration officials said the governor would seek to downgrade the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana in public view from a misdemeanor to a violation, with a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders.

Mr. Bloomberg said his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, would attend the governor’s news conference “to show our support for his proposal.”

“We look forward to working with legislative leaders to help pass a bill before the end of session,” the mayor said, referring to this year’s legislative session in Albany, which is scheduled to conclude in three weeks.

In his statement, the mayor noted that last September, Mr. Kelly issued a memorandum to officers clarifying that they were not to arrest people who take small amounts of marijuana out of their pockets after being stopped by the police.

Mr. Bloomberg said that the governor’s proposal was “consistent with the commissioner’s directive.”
Bloomberg's changed stance increases the chances that the proposal may gain traction in the state. Reducing the penalties would also reduce the number of people who would be brought into the criminal justice system and reduce costs over the long haul - though that has the potential to be offset by an increase in crime. Expect Republicans to focus on the potential for higher crime, though they may also see the reduced costs for incarceration and processing of low-level drug crimes. Even Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey has called for revision of drug crime penalties to reflect the fact that the state can't afford to incarcerate low-level drug offenders.

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