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NY moves to decriminalize small amounts of pot

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NY moves to decriminalize small amounts of pot

Bloomberg backs governor's efforts to change law

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
    Patja/FlickrNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that he supports New York Gov. Andrew  Cuomo's efforts to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, the New York Times reported

Nearly 51,000 people were arrested in New York City in 2011 for low-level marijuana possession, more than arrests for any other offense, according to a state data analysis, NBC News New York reported. About 94 percent of the state's arrests for possession of small amounts of pot last year were in New York City, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat, has asked legislators to decriminalize the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana in public view, which is often discovered by police under New York City police's "Stop and Frisk" policy, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. The new law would decrease the penalty from a misdemeanor to a violation to be punished with a maximum $100 for first-time offenders. 

“This is about creating fairness and consistency in our laws,” Cuomo said, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “The problem is the law, and the solution is to change the law.”

The Governor is hoping to push the plan though to legislation before the session ends in three weeks, and said it will "save thousands of New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest and, in some cases, prosecution," New York Magazine reported

In 2011, NYPD officers stopped and interrogated people 685,724 times, an over 600 percent increase since Bloomberg’s first year in office, according a report by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Nine out of 10 people stopped were innocent, and about 87 percent were black or Latino, according to the NYCLU.

"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," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement Monday.

Raymond W. Kelly, New York City's police commissioner, described the proposal as a “balanced approach," the Times reported.

“This law will make certain that the confusion in this situation will be eliminated,” Kelly said. “Quite frankly, it will make the application of this law much clearer.”

Since the movement to decriminalize marijuana began in the 1970s, fourteen states, including Oregon and Massachusetts, have lowered penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, according to the Associated Press. Since 1996, 16 states, including California, have legalized its use for medical conditions, but New York has yet to do so.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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