New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is asking legislators to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is fighting back because he believes that destroying the job prospects of 50,000 people a year (mainly young black and Latino men) benefits society, and wants continue to use a sneaky police tactic to arrest them.
In New York, the Legislature in 1977 reduced the penalty for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana to a violation, which carries a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders.
But it remains a misdemeanor if the marijuana is in public view or is being smoked in public, and lawmakers and drug-reform advocates have argued that the misdemeanor charge is often unfairly applied to suspects who did not have marijuana in public view until the police stopped them and told them to empty their pockets.
“Now it’s in public view,” Professor Levine said. “If you go by the police reports, all around New York City, there are people standing around with their palms outstretched with a bit of marijuana in them.”
From 2002 to 2011, New York City recorded 400,000 low-level marijuana arrests, according to his analysis. That represented more arrests than under Mr. Bloomberg’s three predecessors put together — a period of 24 years. Most of those arrested have been young black and Hispanic men, and most had no prior criminal convictions.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.