The NYPD seems finally to be getting “with it”—”it” being the Marijuana Reform Act of 1977 that decriminalized the possession of up to 25 grams of pot in New York City as long as it wasn’t “burning” or “open to public view.”
On Friday, WNYC published an internal memo issued by police commissioner Ray Kelly calling for an end to a loophole that has resulted in record high pot busts, costing taxpayers $75 million annually. Kelly wrote: “A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marihuana.” (That’s the Anglicized spelling adopted during the Mexican-ization of the substance in the first half of the last century, which Kelly probably picked up as a wee lad watching irresistible exploitation films in the 1930s).
This past April we ran a story investigating the record high number of pot busts in NYC under Mayor Bloomberg and the racial imbalance—86% of those arrested for misdemeanor pot possession were black or Latino—that goes with it. One source, going by ”B.” was victim of the loophole in question:
B. rides his bike over to Bed-Stuy like he usually does every week or so. He locks it up on a corner post and goes up to his “guy’s” house. Five minutes later, he’s out of there, hops back on and rides off. Except he doesn’t get very far. An NYPD cruiser pulls him over for no apparent reason. “We know what you’re doing, empty your fucking pockets,” they yell, “you won’t get in trouble if you cooperate.” He hasn’t done anything wrong at this point, and they never tell him why he was pulled over, but he complies. “I did what they told me thinking I’d get off easy,” B. says, pulling out two $20 bags in the process. “Nope! They booked me for having it ‘open to public view’.
Call it coercion, call it extortion, call it trampling the Fifth Amendment, but Commissioner Kelly now calls it simply “improper.” In B’s case, had this memo gone out sooner, he would have been issued a violation, a ticket, instead of arrested and fingerprinted for a misdemeanor.
Last week the Voice reported that Mayor Bloomberg, over the hump on his third and presumably last term, was making desperate attempts to salvage his legacy by throwing money at the “black and brown men” he’s been locking up in record numbers over the last decade. Could it be that the NYPD is extending the olive branch to potheads as a way to placate outcry over some of the egregious (and just plain zany) bullshit they’ve been up to over the past few months?