In New York City, Marijuana May Mean Ticket
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In New York City, Marijuana May Mean Ticket
Posted by CN Staff on November 10, 2014 at 05:10:06 PT
By Joseph Goldstein
Source: New York Times
New York -- The New York Police Department, which has been arresting tens of thousands of people a year for low-level marijuana possession, is poised to stop making such arrests and to issue tickets instead, according to law enforcement officials.People found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued court summonses and be allowed to continue on their way without being handcuffed and taken to station houses for fingerprinting.
The change would remake the way the police in New York City handle the most common drug offenses and would represent Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most significant effort since taking office to address the enduring effects of the department’s excessive stop-and-frisk practices.Curbing arrests for small-scale marijuana possession has become a cause for criminal justice reform advocates, and this year, the new Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, said he would stop prosecuting such cases. But his announcement did not go over well with Mr. de Blasio and his police commissioner, William J. Bratton, who vowed to continue making low-level marijuana arrests.Now, the de Blasio administration is publicly embracing the notion that such small-scale possession merits different treatment. And with the changes, City Hall is moving to retake control of a politically potent issue that has enormous resonance in the black and Latino communities, where a vast majority of small-scale marijuana arrests have taken place.In the first eight months of the year, blacks and Hispanics represented 86 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in the city, according to a study written in part by Harry G. Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College who is a director of the Marijuana Arrest Research Project.Many details of the changes planned by the de Blasio administration are still being discussed at City Hall, and many questions remain unanswered. Under the new policy, for example, will the 25 grams or less that constitutes misdemeanor possession under state law be the threshold below which a summons is issued? Will a lit marijuana cigarette be treated differently from a packet of unsmoked cannabis? Other key questions, such as the cost of the fines or whether a criminal record would typically result from a summons, may not be up to City Hall.A clearer picture is expected to emerge this week, as Mr. de Blasio prepares for his first meeting with the city’s five district attorneys. A spokeswoman for the mayor, Marti Adams, declined to comment on the proposed policy change, although officials in two of the district attorney’s offices confirmed that the de Blasio administration was working on a new policy for how the police handle marijuana cases.In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Thompson expressed concern about the mayor’s plan, calling it an end-run around the district attorneys that could end up hurting some of the very people the changes are supposed to help.Since July, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office has dismissed 849 misdemeanor marijuana cases involving police arrests, or about 34 percent of the total 2,526 such cases in Brooklyn.Under the proposed changes, it appears that instead of being arrested, those given a ticket for marijuana will be told to appear in a courtroom. But the new policy could push prosecutors out of the process, because summonses issued without an accompanying arrest generally do not receive prosecutorial review.“In order to give the public confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system, these cases should be subject to prosecutorial review,” Mr. Thompson said. “By allowing these cases to avoid early review, by issuing a summons, there is a serious concern that many summonses will be issued without the safeguards currently in place. These cases will move forward even when due process violations might have occurred.”Another possible effect of the new policy would be that many of the tickets later convert into arrest warrants if the person misses a court date, he said. There are currently about 1.2 million active warrants in New York relating to missed court dates and unpaid fines for misdemeanors and noncriminal violations. In 2013, people failed to pay or show up to court about a quarter of the time for the 329,198 summons cases on the dockets of the city’s lowest level criminal courts, according to court statistics.Under the current practice, more than half of those arrested for marijuana were released a couple of hours after being brought to a station house, according to 2012 data gathered by the Criminal Justice Agency, a nonprofit that assists with bail determinations. They were fingerprinted, checked for warrants and issued a ticket demanding their appearance in court six to eight weeks later. The remainder of those arrested for marijuana possession were “put through the system,” meaning they were held for up to 24 hours before being arraigned before a judge.In New York, the debate over marijuana arrests has been less about drug decriminalization than it has been about the aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics that came to define the Police Department’s crime-fighting strategies. During the Bloomberg administration, the police arrested as many as 50,000 people a year on minor marijuana charges, meaning that some years, approximately one in eight arrests made by the police was for marijuana. In some cases, arrests were made after officers stopped people under dubious circumstances and instructed them to remove any contraband from their pockets.In 1977, the Legislature in New York moved to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana that were not in public view. That meant that carrying a small bag of marijuana hidden in a pocket was supposed to be a ticket-eligible violation that did not amount to a crime. But since the mid-1990s, the police have routinely arrested people they found with marijuana and charged them with a misdemeanor, even though it was only supposed to apply to marijuana that was burning or discovered in “public view.” In 2011, the police commissioner at the time, Raymond W. Kelly, issued an unusual order reminding officers that the misdemeanor was not the appropriate charge in many cases.In 2013, the police still arrested more than 28,000 people for marijuana possession, and in 2014, the arrests were occurring at a similar pace, Professor Levine said.While campaigning for mayor, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, emphatically criticized the department’s marijuana arrest practices. His populist outrage against heavy-handed policing in minority neighborhoods helped propel him into City Hall. But since becoming mayor in January, he has exerted little pressure on the department, instead often deferring to Commissioner Bratton, who has made a national reputation for aggressive street policing combined with an ability to soothe the often-inflamed relations between big-city police departments and the minority neighborhoods they serve.Yet Mr. de Blasio now finds himself under increasing pressure to deliver on his platform of police reform. That pressure began in July after a black Staten Island man died after a police officer put him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Since then, the departures of the department’s top Hispanic official and its highest-ranking black officer have led a number of minority lawmakers and City Hall allies to begin to question Mr. de Blasio’s oversight of the police.A version of this article appears in print on November 10, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In City, Marijuana May Mean Ticket, Not Arrest.Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Joseph GoldsteinPublished: November 10, 2014Copyright: 2014 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #3 posted by observer on November 10, 2014 at 12:15:44 PT
How will NYPD Game the System Next?
For the wizened NYPD cadgers and experienced police state bureaucrats, fattened on years of top police pay and gaming the overtime system like you would not believe, marijuana has been very very good for their paychecks. And pot lets police crack heads, too - always a plus for cops according to what police unions say, at least. These are the real beneficiaries of pot prohibition. But good luck getting those basic follow-the-money -type facts from mainstream media. Mainstream media is too busy covering for the police state. But I suppose the MSM is as blackmail-able as anyone, what with this NSA-DEA-local-PD totalitarian spy network to maintain dossiers on ... everyone. That really keeps the herd in line. So while the NYPD and their ilk cry rivers of crocodile tears "for the kids", those kids are merely immature perps, waiting to be gamed by (NYPD) police, prosecutors, social(ist) workers, as well as the government "educational" system (read: police state obedience training, and dumbing them down). And not mentioning the for-profit prison system where the US Freedom-Loving Bill of Rights gives the "right" to government to enslave you - as long as government convicts you of some "crime". (Hey, no problem there. see Harvey Silverglate's book "Three Felonies a Day"). There's a monetarily rich vein of gaming the system traditionally tapped by the NYPD, and scary "drugs" (read: pot) plays a big part in a healthy NYPD balanced diet of graft, corruption, and generally gaming the system.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on November 10, 2014 at 07:50:20 PT
America Apartheid in action
This is the kinder, gentler America that Father Bush spoke of - we still use the criminal justice system to round up the minorities and criminally prosecute them, but we give them a summons instead of handcuffing them. So thoughtful!I'm sure when their life is ruined by a criminal charge and jail term for touching an herbal plant that they'll be much happier because they were only given a summons. 
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on November 10, 2014 at 05:52:25 PT
Cannabis prohibition originated against minorities
A mess created by bigots, for bigots. How does the racist afford His rock n roll life style?Once enough people involved are interested in fixing the problem, simply end cannabis prohibition.As long as cannabis prohibition flourishes, it will be used to target minorities. THAT WAS ITS ORIGINAL INTENT. And that is confirmed by checking history. So the law is working fine...The bigots will only give up (money / profits / power) what they are forced to give up.-0-Like D.C., minorities could sure make a difference in N.Y. if RE-legalizing cannabis were to be placed on a ballot. They have to be sick of cannabis prohibition being used as a racist tool.
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