Arrests for the possession or small amounts of weed in New York City continue to decline sharply and it’s not because the NYPD is engaged in another slowdown — it’s because they’re finally following the law.
Here’s some background: In 1977, weed was decriminalized in New York. According to the state law, possession of 25 grams or less would trigger a summons and not an arrest as long as it wasn’t in public view. Then the NYPD started loopholing the system in two ways: 1) Cops wrongly used stop-and-frisk to search for weed, even though the tactic is only supposed to be used to confiscate weapons. 2) When a suspect had weed concealed on their person, the officer would instruct him to remove it and then elevate the charge from a summons to an arrest since it was now in public view. This breach of the existing law led to a huge surge in arrests that disproportionately targeted minorities, even though whites tend to enjoy weed as much or even more than blacks and Hispanics.
Due to the sheer number of stop-and-frisks being executed by police, weed arrests skyrocketed and the media started reporting on it. Then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a department-wide memo reminding cops of the 1977 law and how violations for weed should be handled properly. But the arrests continued.
So state lawmakers considered revising the statute so that even if the weed was in public view, a civil citation could be issued. Like most things in Albany though, that bill went nowhere.
For most of 2014, not much changed under Bill de Blasio, with arrests nearing the same level as predecessor. Then in November, something drastic happened when the maor and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced new guidelines to the NYPD: 1) Follow the existing 1977 law. 2) Even if weed is in public view, issue a summons, as long as it’s not being smoked. This strategy is paying off.
The AP reports:
After a mid-November turn toward violations and summonses instead of misdemeanor arrests for carrying modest amounts of pot, such arrests plunged by 75 percent in December compared to last year, from about 1,820 to 460, according to state Division of Criminal Justice Services statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The November numbers fell 42 percent, from 2,200 to 1,280.
According to NY1, “marijuana summonses are also down 10 percent since the policy change” by the mayor and so it’s no wonder cops don’t like him. He essentially took away the bread and butter of their arrests.
(Original photo: Don Goofy)