Mayor Bloomberg's War

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/06/mayor-bloombergs-war/258060/