Mayor Bloomberg's War

Obviously I have strong opinions about Bloomberg's other initiatives:


The police in New York City made 50,684 arrests last year for possession of a small amount of marijuana, more than for any other offense, according to an analysis of state data by Harry G. Levine, a sociologist at Queens College. The arrests continued -- one in seven arrests made in the city was for low-level marijuana possession -- even as Commissioner Kelly issued his directive. 

Mr. Bloomberg has opposed ending arrests for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. His administration has argued that the arrests serve to reduce more serious crime by deterring drug dealing and the violence that can accompany the drug trade. A spokesman for the mayor declined to comment Sunday...

More than a dozen states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, including Connecticut last year and California the year before. In New York, the Legislature in 1977 reduced the penalty for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana to a violation, which carries a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders. 

But it remains a misdemeanor if the marijuana is in public view or is being smoked in public, and lawmakers and drug-reform advocates have argued that the misdemeanor charge is often unfairly applied to suspects who did not have marijuana in public view until the police stopped them and told them to empty their pockets. 

 "Now it's in public view," Professor Levine said. "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." 

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.
Those numbers are an embarrassment. They mock actual police work, and reduce "crime-fighting" to some kind of scam, a tautological trick. Cuomo is looking to change the policy on minor marijuana arrests. Bloomberg, who has opposed such policy changes, has evidently been shamed into acquiescence.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Life as an Obama Impersonator

"When you think you're the president, you just act like you are above everybody else."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

VIdeo

Life as an Obama Impersonator

"When you think you're the president, you just act like you are above everybody else."

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

More in National

From This Author

Just In