Decriminalize Marijuana Possession in New York

Target: Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver

Goal: Decriminalize marijuana possession to reduce drug-related arrests in New York City

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, recently announced that people who have been arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer have to spend the night in jail. Instead, those who do not have a warrant will be required to appear in court at a later date. Mayor Bloomberg hopes to encourage the state to decriminalize marijuana and ensure that fewer New York City residents end up with criminal records. In New York State, possession of small amounts of marijuana is still considered a misdemeanor, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has been pushing for legislation that would make possession a non-criminal violation, a proposal that Mayor Bloomberg supports.

New York City currently arrests more people for possession of marijuana than any other city in the country, and the numbers have increased drastically in the years since Mayor Bloomberg took office. Under the current state law, marijuana possession is only illegal when the drug is not hidden from view. However, NYPD officers have been known to ask citizens to remove items from their pockets when being searched so that they can legally be arrested for possession.

Until marijuana is decriminalized in New York State, those who are arrested for possession will still end up with criminal records. An overwhelming majority of the people who are stopped and searched as part of New York City’s stop-and-frisk program are not guilty of any crime, but those who are arrested are usually only guilty of having small amounts of marijuana, a crime that they would not otherwise be arrested for if this program did not exist. Additionally, because stop-and-frisk unfairly targets young men of color, as long as the program continues, the numbers of young men of color with criminal records will remain high.

Although Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to stop holding those who have been arrested for possession of marijuana is a step in the right direction, as long as the state law still criminalizes marijuana possession, the city of New York will continue to unnecessarily arrest tens of thousands of citizens every year for this minor offense. New York must pass the legislation supported by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo to decriminalize marijuana and reduce the number of drug-related arrests in New York City.


Dear Sheldon Silver,

In an effort to reduce the punishment for marijuana possession, Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that residents of New York City who have been arrested for small amounts of marijuana will no longer be required to stay in jail overnight. Although he supports decriminalizing the drug, New York City cannot stop arresting people until New York State passes Governor Cuomo’s legislation that would reduce marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a violation.

More people are arrested in New York City for marijuana possession than in any other city, and because the city’s stop-and-frisk program unfairly targets young men of color, making marijuana a criminal offense means that a large number of young men of color in New York City have criminal records. Since Mayor Bloomberg is unwilling to end his unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program, the only way to stop the racist program from resulting in so many residents having criminal records is to change the state law.

Decriminalizing marijuana possession would allow police in New York City and in the rest of the state to focus their attention on stopping violent crimes. Please encourage lawmakers in your state to support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: “it was 3 a.m.” via Flickr.

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