NYC Mayor Bloomberg: Starting Next Month, No Jail for Marijuana Possession

Today, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new marijuana policy for the city during his State of the City address.

Mayor Bloomberg, who previously stood with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in his call for fixing New York’s marijuana laws, reiterated that support, but said his city won’t wait for Albany on this issue.

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.

-Mayor Bloomberg

Under current law, possession of marijuana for personal use in private is punishable by a ticket, but possession of marijuana open to public view or being burnt in public is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 with a maximum sentence of 90 days.

This initiative could go a long way towards correcting the draconic policy currently in place in the city, which disproportionately effects people of color and costs taxpayers about 75 million dollars a year in enforcement and prosecution costs. New York City is the marijuana arrest capitol of the world, with 50,684 arrests for marijuana offenses in 2011 alone, hopefully this action from the mayor will encourage his fellow New Yorkers in Albany to cease the arrest of marijuana consumers across the state.

You can view the full text of Mayor Bloomberg’s speech here.

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