Michael Bloomberg has come out in support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, and NYPD boss Ray Kelly is onboard too. “Last year, Police Commissioner Kelly issued a policy order directing officers to issue violations, rather than misdemeanors, for small amounts of marijuana that come into open view during a search,” the mayor said today in a statement, reversing past defenses of the small-time arrests. “The Governor’s proposal today is consistent with the Commissioner’s directive, and strikes the right balance by ensuring that the NYPD will continue to have the tools it needs to maintain public safety — including making arrests for selling or smoking marijuana.”
Under the plan, pot possession up to 25 grams, as long as the stuff’s not burning, would be a violation, punishable with a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders, instead of a misdemeanor. As is, low-level marijuana arrests are the most common crime in the city, often resulting from the constitutionally questionable police directive for people (usually young men of color) to empty their pockets during stop-and-frisk searches.
Cuomo’s plan, which the mayor wants to push through by the end of the legislative session in three weeks, hopes to “save thousands of New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest and, in some cases, prosecution.”
Bloomberg’s endorsement of the proposal takes a slightly different focus: “Thanks to the NYPD, our city has come a long way from the days when marijuana was routinely sold and smoked on our streets without repercussions,” the mayor’s statement said. “By preventing these crimes, and targeting police resources to where they are needed most, we have cut crime by 35 percent over the past decade.” However it’s spun, the Bloomberg administration’s shift is a meaningful one for the future of the bill. And it makes a little bit of weed more BLT than big soda.