Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Mayor Announces Change In City's Marijuana Arrest Policy

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The mayor announced a change in policy on marijuana arrests in his State of the City address Thursday.

He said that he and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly support Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to change the law so that having up to 15 grams of the drug in public view would only be a violation.

"Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We're changing that," Bloomberg said. "Effective next month, anyone presenting an I.D. 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'll allow us to target police resources where they're needed the most."

NY1 spoke with Alfredo Carrasquillo, a man who said he was arrested in 2011. He said he spent too long behind bars despite possessing only a small amount of marijuana.

"I would up getting sent to the precinct, held for like five hours," he said. "So my paperwork finally went through and got sent to central booking, so I stayed for another three days."

The judge eventually gave him time served with a $120 fine.

"It made me feel that the system is basically built to incarcerate people like me," he said.

Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, agreed with the mayor that it could allow the NYPD to make better use of resources. But she still has concerns.

"What matters is swift sure and certain punishment," MacDonald said. "The length of punishment doesn't really matter. This continues to give police the authority to enforce marijuana laws."

Gabriel Sayegh, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is pushing for the legalization of marijuana, called the mayor's move a great first step.

"These arrests need to stop," Sayegh said. "We need to stop criminalizing people and stop having abusive police practices lead to tens of thousands of young people winding up in prison every year."

The hope among decriminalization advocates is that the mayor's campaign contributions to State Senate Republicans sways some votes, resulting in passage.

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