Bloomberg Says No More Jail Stays for Minor NYC Marijuana Busts

In his final state of the city address Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that people caught with small amounts of marijuana in the city will no longer be subjected to overnight stays in the city's jails, but will merely be taken to the precinct for a desk appearance and then released.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (wikimedia.org)
The move is in response to increasingly loud criticism of the city's extremely high marijuana arrest rates, which are taking place despite New York state having decriminalized pot possession more than three decades ago. The NYPD managed to get its pound of flesh from marijuana users by intimidating them into removing baggies from their pockets, then charging them with the misdemeanor of public possession of marijuana, not the infraction of simple possession, and then making them sit in holding cells for up to 24 hours.

During Bloomberg's 10-year tenure as mayor, more than 400,000 people have been arrested on pot possession charges, nearly 350,000 of them young men of color. That number has begun to decline in recent months as police have modified their practices under pressure.

"We know that there's more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record," Bloomberg said. "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," he said.

"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."

Drug reform and civil rights activists said it was a step in the right direction, but a small one.

"Mayor Bloomberg stopped defending the indefensible and now recognizes that we cannot afford to criminalize youth of color for carrying small amounts of marijuana," said Alredo Carrasquillo, a community organizer with VOCAL-NY. "But being 'consistent with the law' means more than just issuing desk appearance tickets instead of putting people in jail. Most people targeted for these arrests only produce marijuana in plain view after being illegally searched during stop, question and frisk encounters with police. Mayor Bloomberg's support for marijuana reform is a step in the right direction but does not solve the fundamental problems with the NYPD's policing strategies."

"We agree with the mayor that there's more we can do keep New Yorkers, especially young people of color, from ending up with a criminal record," said Kyung Ji Rhee, the juvenile justice director for the Center for NuLeadership. "For instance, the mayor can direct Commissioner Kelly to immediately cease and desist NYPD’s broken 'stop and frisk' program. We must stop these mass arrests and criminalizing people for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. And we can get the police out of our schools to end the 'schools to prison' pipeline."

"This new policy is a step in the right direction -- and it's the direct result of the ongoing campaign led by community groups in New York to end these racially biased, unpopular, unjust and expensive arrests," said Gabriel Sayegh, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Marijuana possession is the number one arrest in New York City and with this new policy change, tens of thousands of people, mostly young men of color, will no longer be held in jail overnight on for possessing small amounts of marijuana. But the arrests themselves need to end -- period. Now the legislature must act -- immediately -- to pass Gov. Cuomo's marijuana decriminalization bill. Every reasonable New Yorker supports the measure. Reform is long, long overdue."

New York City, NY
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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My Mind is Boggled!

"It's consistent with the law"

How have we come to the point where forcing the police, against their will, to follow the law is cause for celebration? This is SAD!

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desk appearance

As many citations as they will now write , you can expect the precinct be backed up . Get caught and spend 8 hours waiting for your ticket . Almost like being locked up . Do you go the the precinct to get your seatbelt ticket ?

Better yet, legalize

Stop arresting. Most of the kids arrested are Black and/or Hispanic. The search is illegal.

I wrote to my senators and congressman urging them to legalize marijuana.

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Unamerican Nazi bloomberg pushing for penis rights?

The hell is this crap! this isn't american.This isn't change.This isn't right! Those caught with "small amounts" shouldn't be taken to the jail and given a summons.They need to STAY in jail where they fucking belong,.Drug use ,perticulary marijuana use is the #1 cause for social and moral decay, it destroys tradional family values, it turns kids into drug addicts who,cheat,steal,rob,act out,unruley behavior,unprotected sex,atheist mindset,turns  them into homosexuals(which helpsout that qweer agenda) rape. murder,child abuse. It's all doctumented, Why else would children be taken away from their parents who smoke marijuana.Because of the evidence that shows those children are abused by they're parents marijuana use, they are beaten,molested, taught not to trust their government,negleted(mom and dad have to hang out and get high in dope houses)and taught Atheistic relegion. We need to put a fucking end to this insanity now before its to late. We need more enforcement, We need to take away antiamerican laws that surpess evidence,whenever police make an honest mistake or not so honest, I for one believe the criminal justice system could work better if we could do mantory drug test for every student that goes to middle school,and high school. meaning random supisonless drug testing of every student, to root out the druggies,and send them directly to jail,We need to End this rights of the accused. When you are suppected of a crime ,don't give them a trial,or defense,Make them learn from their stupidity, Just accept your guilty and do your time,. We need mantory federal laws that when someone whos test postive for drugs.they are sent to prison for at least 10 to 15 years. and if they test postive in prison, then they should just recieve captial punishment.,which i believe as well as the mojorty of americans  believe that anyone caught selling ANY AMOUNT,doesnt matter how small.(small amounts of drugs have contributied to hundreds of wasted lives that could have been better served as christians.doing gods will on other people) that they just get simple captial punishment. Even if their just being accused by someone,we can't risk that off chance that they might be or not ,just send em to the gallows, We need to take all constutional rights away from people accused of any simple crime, Because allowing them to have rights,perverts the natural flow of democracy. the only people who should even have rights are Christians, we founded this country,also bankers,and the wealthy,government officals, and leos too, dont forget them,for they keep the real citizens safe,and keep proper order in socity. It's time to take this country back, this is a fucking war.Start treating it like one. Those arogent,whinny people asking for handouts need to be held accountable for being born,their a waste on this great nation and a slap in the face to our values. the poor need to go back to what they used to be not citizens but slaves,as god commanded. fuck you bloomberg for pissing on american values and setting us back a hundred years.

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What is he not saying?

What about criminal records or fines for possession?There's a lot more wrong in NY that an overnight jail stay.Why is Bloomberg so concerned with cannabis in the first place?I get the distinct impression that if he just shut his face,the police would be doing very little and a whole lot less that they are now.

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This is good!

Too many normal citizens who aren't criminals have been incarcerated from simple pot use. Far more horrific crimes have been committe due to alcohol & received a "slap on the hand" in comparison. Alcohol being "legal " does not make it acceptable. The law is backward -booze should be the Controlled Substance " its far more dangerous than any "drug"

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As a good liberal he could impose the same $5.00 per pack cig tax on every gram of pot. He would be an instant hero to the libs.

Hopefully the decision will

Hopefully the decision will be a lasting one, these young people deserve a clean record. There are many who had been arrested for this reason and even though they could go for bail, they could still be affected by the event.

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"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," he said.

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