After years of defending low-level marijuana arrests as a way to deter more serious crime a la “broken windows” theory, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given his support to a proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The news bodes well for the growing urban decriminalization movement. Bloomberg’s change of heart comes after similar reform in a number of cities, including Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia. Officials in these cities say that downgrading the possession of small amounts of marijuana reduces unnecessary arrests, saving money and human resources. Cuomo said his measure would remedy a “blatant inconsistency” in the law that lets people caught in possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana to escape with only with a violation — and a maximum fine of $100 — while those displaying the same amount of marijuana in public face criminal misdemeanor charges.
Advocates who have long pushed for such policy change say small-time pot charges have disproportionately affected young black and Latino men who are stopped by police under Bloomberg’s controversial stop-and-frisk laws and instructed to empty their pockets, despite causing no public pot-related disturbance.
From the New York Times:
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.