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Bloomberg Loosens NY Pot Laws

By McCarton Ackerman 02/15/13

NYC's mayor announces the end of arraignment for minor pot possession, but still opposes legalization.

Bloomberg still opposes drug legalization.
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NYC will relax its strict marijuana policies by no longer arraigning people arrested on low-level marijuana charges, according to an announcement made yesterday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. From now on, many of those who get picked up for possession of negligible amounts of pot will be released with appearance tickets if they have identification and no open warrants. Approximately 50,000 people in NYC were arrested for these charges in 2010 and 2011, many of whom were booked and remained in custody before they could face a judge—which can take upwards of 36 hours. Under the new policy, those who are arrested will go free prior to their court date, which should ease congestion in jails. "It's the right thing to do, and it will allow us to target police resources where they're needed most," said Bloomberg. Under New York law, possession of less than 25 grams (about 7/8 of an ounce) of pot is a non-criminal violation and generates a ticket. Arrests are only made if the drug is "open to public view," but critics have argued that cops often manipulate this rule by telling people to empty their pockets and bags before making the arrest.

Although critics have hailed Bloomberg's announcement as progress, many believe that further adaptations must be made to New York's marijuana laws. "With this new policy change, tens of thousands of people, mostly young men of color, will no longer be held in jail overnight for possessing small amounts of marijuana," said Gabriel Sayegh, the New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, "But the arrests themselves need to end—period." However, today Bloomberg announced that he is still opposed to legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drugs. He claims pot is stronger than it used to be and he believes legalization would encourage dealers to move on to distributing harder drugs, like cocaine.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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