New York City is changing its perspectives on marijuana slowly but surely. The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, has not been a supporter of adult-use marijuana legalization and the police have been highly criticized for arresting more black men for the possession of marijuana than other group. However, Mayor de Blasio is softening on marijuana announcing last week that the police will only be issuing citations for smoking marijuana in public instead of arresting people starting on September 1st, 2018.
Another remarkable bit of cannabis news coming out of New York last week was that the state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said the health department is recommending the outright legalization of marijuana. “We looked at the pros, we looked at the cons,” Zucker said. “When we were done we realized that the pros outweighed the cons.” Health department officials looked at the legal, medical and social implications of legalization and ultimately concluded that legalizing adult-use cannabis is more to the benefit of the people of New York.
New York has a pretty limited medical marijuana program, and in all of New York CIty there are only five medical marijuana dispensaries open. Costs for medical cannabis are high and the limited amount of qualifying conditions precludes most people from accessing marijuana. According to SEEDO, New York City is the largest consumer of marijuana in the world too.
The citations police will issue to people consuming cannabis in public will force them to appear in court on a later date where they could receive a fine determined by the judge. A first time offense for cannabis would involve a fine of $100. However, it will only be a fine and will not be considered a crime that could be added to the person’s record. There are some exceptions though. If a person caught smoking weed in public has an open arrest warrant, is on probation or parole, have been convicted of a violent crime or does not have identification on their person, the police will then arrest the individual.
New Orleans implemented a similar law where police were to stop arresting people for consuming cannabis or possessing it in public. It has worked very well for New Orleans and like New York, Louisiana has not legalized cannabis either. These are further signs that awareness is being spread about cannabis consumption not being as bad for people as has been commonly believed for the last 80 plus years. Decriminalizing marijuana helps protect people from having their records marred by misdemeanors related to cannabis that can keep them from getting jobs or admittance into school.
If New York City’s Mayor de Blasio is willing to decriminalize cannabis consumption in public and the state’s health commissioner is willing to advise the state to legalize cannabis, then perceptions are surely changing in the Big Apple. We spoke with New York State Senator Diane Savino recently who is pushing hard for the legalization of cannabis in her state. How long do you think it will be before New York legalizes adult-use cannabis throughout the state?