12:12 pm Jun. 4, 2012
At 11:14 am this morning, just a couple of hours before Governor Andrew Cuomo was to formally announce that he would seek to decriminalize the public possession of small amounts of marijuana, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the move represented an endorsement of city policy, rather than interference in it.
"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," said the mayor, in a statement. "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."
Advocates argue that black and Hispanic teams, who are often required to empty their pockets of objects, including small amounts of weed, during NYPD stop-and-frisks, disproportionately suffer from laws criminalizing marijuana possession.
“If you go by the police reports, all around New York City, there are people standing around with their palms outstretched with a bit of marijuana in them," Queens College Professor Harry Levine told the New York Times.
Cuomo's initiative has been interpreted as an aggressive move onto city turf, along the same lines as the governor's overruling of the Bloomberg administration's fingerpriting-for-foodstamps policies.
"In this case, the governor would be acting against the wishes of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and in spite of a September directive from the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, who instructed officers not to arrest people who take small amounts of marijuana out of their pockets or bags after being stopped by the police.
The Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group critical of the Police Department’s marijuana arrest policies, found that only a modest decline in the arrests followed Mr. Kelly’s memorandum.
In his statement, Bloomberg sought to dispel that notion, while also defending his police department's pursuit of those who sell or publicly smoke marijuana.
“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," he 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. Commissioner Kelly will be attending the Governor’s press conference later today to show our support for his proposal, and we look forward to working with legislative leaders to help pass a bill before the end of session.”
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