Bloomberg Won't Stop Bogus Pot Busts, but He Will Make Them Gentler

NORMLNORMLYesterday, reviewing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's record on civil liberties, I noted that he has presided over an unannounced crusade against pot smokers, featuring illegal "public display" arrests of people whose marijuana became visible only because of police intervention. Today Bloomberg announced during his State of the City address that people caught with small amounts of pot will no longer go directly to jail:

We know that there’s more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record. Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor, and we’ll work to help him pass it this year. But we won’t wait for that to happen.

Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We’re changing that. Effective next month, anyone presenting an ID 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 will allow us to target police resources where they're needed most.

Pot smokers will still be arrested, however, and they will still face misdemeanor charges, which means "ending up with a criminal record" if they are convicted. Furthermore, Bloomberg rather alarmingly misstates the current legal status of possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana. It is already a violation, punishable by a $100 fine, and has been since 1977. The misdemeanor is possessing marijuana "in public view," which is punishable by up to three months in jail. The problem is that New York cops routinely convert the former offense into the latter by removing marijuana or instructing people to empty their pockets during stop-and-frisk encounters. That sort of trickery, which is what leads to arrests for something the state legislature decriminalized 26 years ago, is illegal, as Police Commissioner Ray Kelly himself has acknowledged (although he questions how often it occurs). While Bloomberg endorsed legislation decriminalizing public display of marijuana after Gov. Andrew Cuomo took on the issue last year, he has never acknowledged that police are illegally manufacturing misdemeanors, and he is still allowing such abuses to continue, even as he concedes the stupidity of treating pot smokers like criminals.

Addendum: Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, whose research brought to light the surge in pot busts under Bloomberg, comments:

Issuance of a desk appearance ticket involves a full custodial arrest, handcuffs, and a ride back to the police station in a squad car, van or wagon.  Sometimes the person is driven around for hours while the officers look for others to arrest. 

At the police station the person arrested is fingerprinted and photographed and is locked up in the precinct's own holding pens, which hold often scary people who have been arrested for various crimes. The person's fingerprints are sent to the state and then to the FBI to be cross checked for warrants, as well as check for local NYC warrants. The most common warrant to come up is not for a crime but for having failed to pay the fine for a violation such as having an open beer can in public, riding a bike on the sidewalk, or sitting on a park bench after hours. The NYPD gives out 600,000 of these summons a year, primarily in  the city's black and Latino neighborhoods and precincts. 

Ironically, people with no warrants, and who have never been arrested before, are often held longer than those with previous arrests because it takes longer to check the fingerprints and photographs of those without criminal records. The person arrested is held for two hours or more and then released with the mandatory court appearance ticket (DAT).

The obvious question is: why are these people being arrested and detained at all?  They could be given summonses on the street charging them with possession of small amounts of marijuana, This would save far more police time and public resources, and save the young people targeted from a stigmatizing criminal arrest record for drug possession.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The problem is that New York cops routinely convert the former offense into the latter by removing marijuana or instructing people to empty their pockets during stop-and-frisk encounters.

    You can always just say no, right?

    It's a free country.

  • sloopyinca||

    What are you some kind of comedian?

  • The Sherriff of Fistingham™||

    "You can always just say no, right?"

    Sure, you can...

    And NYPD's response;
    "You're gonna look pretty funny tryin' to eat corn on the cob with no fuckin' teeth!"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The NYPD wasn't listening to his address anyway.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Everett: You can't do this! We just been pardoned by the Governor himself.

    Delmar: It went out on the radio.

    Sheriff: Is that right?...Well we ain't got a radio.

  • sloopyinca||

    +1 gopher

  • Hugh Akston||

    No thank you sloopy. A third of a gopher would only arouse my appetite without beddin' her back down.

  • Vapourwear||

    You can have the whole thing.

  • A Serious Man||

    Everett: This ain't right. This ain't the law.

    Sheriff:(scoffs) The Law is a human institution.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Holy crap, I came back here to post that very thing, having thought on it a spell.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Well you know the blind are reputed to possess sensitivities compensating for their lack of sight, even to the point of developing paranormal psychic powers. Now, clearly seeing into the future would fall into neatly into that category.

  • Bam!||

    All I took away from the image was that potheads can't spell "normal".

  • Generic Stranger||

    And all I took away from your post was that you don't understand acronyms.

  • sloopyinca||

    No, no. ATFPAPIC, he wouldn't know the acronym unless he smoked pot. IIRC, it's not SOP for civilians to be up on all the sweet slang.

  • Generic Stranger||

    NOBODY understands Dumphy's acronyms. Not even Dumphy.

  • ||

    Assuming The Fact Pattern As Presented Is Correct

    Hope That Helps

    those are my two favorites.

  • ant1sthenes||

    You can't fool me. It stands for "Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Personnel Are Petty, Incompetent Crooks"

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Cripple fight!

    NYT vs Tesla

    Holy shit- battery range is adversely affected by freezing temperatures! Charging stations are few and far between!

    Paying 200k(?) for a completely impractical status signaling device might not be such a great idea, if you actually need to go somewhere.

  • Paul.||

    That was an excellent article. Got covered yesterday I think. Well, actually the 'test drive' link in the article you linked is what got covered.

    But yeah, electric cars. A nail-biting extravaganze of 'oh my shit god will I make it, and if I don't, then what?'

  • ||

    I don't see how anyone who has ever lived anywhere where you need an engine block heater isn't just like, "Electric car? HAHAHA!" Cold will fuck your shit up.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Electric cars would make wonderful public art projects lining our freeways in Los Angeles.

  • deified||

    What happened to "nicole can't even!"? She is missed.

  • Paul.||

    (turn off the cruise control; alternately slow down and speed up to take advantage of regenerative braking)

    Thermodynamics much?

    If I have to expend energy to speed up, and then get *some of it* back during regenerative braking, I'm not "saving" anything. The only time regenerative braking gets you back something is when you HAVE to slow down, or you're presented with a long, downhill coast.

    Which brings us back to the elegent suggestion by Mr. Pro L: Rezone the entire country so that everything must be built at the bottom of a hill. I propose it becalled Green Zoning or Smart Zoning.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And the massive labor needed to build inclines in both directions, well, can you say recovery?

  • Paul.||

    “At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.”

    Ye gods! Turning the heat up in your car will dramatically reduce your range! Electric cars FTW!

  • sloopyinca||

    Just curious (because I'm not gonna give the NYT page hits), but do they address the amount of pollution that is generated mining the materials for the batteries and the fact that these electric cars have a much more negative impact on the environment than a Mack truck built in the 50's?

  • Paul.||

    No. Electric cars are the super-clean, zero impact wave of the future. Because they ultimately have to ride around on a flatbed truck when the batteries die. It's those dirty, belching flatbed trucks that are the problem.

    When they go to electric flatbeds, we're truly fucked.

  • Jordan||

    Not only that, but the parking brake is electric too. The tow truck driver had to have a Tesla rep walk him through how to disable it because it wasn't working. And the menus on the in-screen dash did not match what the rep said they would. This car is a clusterfuck of epic proportions. I read about it on Jalopnik if you want the source (too lazy to link).

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Whoops. It's ONLY 100k.

    That makes a difference.

    Oh, wait, no it doesn't. It's still just a golf cart in a frilly dress.

  • Paul.||

    Bloomberg Won't Stop Bogus Pot Busts, but He Will Make Them Gentler

    It's 'cause he wants to make that shit special.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Thermodynamics much?

    I liked the part where they told him to run the heater (presumably to warm the battery pack) to bring the range back up. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way.

  • Paul.||

    In theory... in theory depending on the chemical makeup of the battery, applying a little heat to a battery can bring its charge back up a fair amount-- and will bring it BACK up using less energy than the heat applied to it... if the battery already had the charge in it to begin with.

    The thing that cracks me up is the bullshit from Musk. Typical corporate tool.

    This is a case where the customer's experience was the customer's experience. Even if the customer was doing things wrong, there was no reason to believe that the reporter was deliberately sabatoging the test. I mean, marinate on that for a second... the NYT's environmental reporter sabatoging a test for an electric car. Oh the lulz! Musk is defensive because the real-world test was largely a disaster. Musk should be taking that experience to heart and improving his company's product.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Oh Paul,

    Tesla's business model isn't about providing a value-added product. It's about creating a bobo status symbol and collecting that sweet sweet stimulus money.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    do they address the amount of pollution that is generated mining the materials for the batteries

    Dude, everybody knows batteries are clean energy. They come from packages.

    What are you, some kind of a nutcase?

  • Paul.||

    Packages sold in grocery stores. And some of them are even green!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Musk should be taking that experience to heart and improving his company's product.

    He should just include a $1500 used Honda Civic with each car he sells.
    For the times when you absolutely, positively have to GET THERE.

  • ||

    mike, mike, mike.

    i can't believe that in a big city with NY, that you are (or were) holding pot offenders OVERNIGHT for mere possession. if the cop is even going to make a case on it ( vs. giving a warning), clearly a ticket is in order. throwing a harmless pot smoker behind bars is just ridiculous.

    you got your unconstitutional stop and frisk program, your ridiculous and illegal (however rare) process of manufacturing the "public view" mj offenses, etc.

    i'd be embarassed to work NYPD with that kind of crap going on.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm guessin' that goes back to Giuliani and the "broken windows" thing.

  • General Butt Naked||

    NFL Players demand a plan.

    Like I needed another reason not to watch these overpaid babies.

  • juris imprudent||

    The obvious question is: why are these people being arrested and detained at all?

    All together now because FUCK YOU, that's why.

    You are welcome.

  • Hyperion||

    It’s consistent with the law, it’s the right thing to do, and it will allow us to target police resources where they're needed most.

    No, it's not the right thing to do, you pompous bag of shit, the right thing to do is for you to leave people smoking a damn plant, the fuck alone.

  • Ken Shultz||

    New York's alright if you like saxophones.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q_odSgDQeE

  • Mr Drew||

    In Cincinnati
    (where the cops are generally so "I am the LAW, maggot!" that even cops from other areas are like "dude, those cincy cops are pretty tightly wound, aren't they?")
    the penalty for a personal use amount (it's defined but I don't know the exact weight) of pot is something like a $100 ticket. No jail, no court, just mail a check or pay online.

    Think of the money that NYC is wasting just to process all those people.

    An attorney buddy of mine thinks that the biggest cities will never relax on pot because how else can you control all those scary dark-skinned people other than by keeping a way to bust them at will?

  • ||

    Drug dealers are needed in big cities, they are the eyes and ears of law enforcement, the decriminalization of marihuana would put most of them out of business. Murderers, rapists, and home invaders, are quickly arrested thanks to information provided by the protected marihuana merchant.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement