Across most of the United States, the attitudes of lawmakers toward marijuana finally seem to be shifting in a positive direction. The phrase ‘better late than never’ springs to mind, though of course for folks in the United Kingdom, it’s all very by the by.
Today’s big news comes from New York City where it appears pot smokers in general are now statistically less likely to get arrested, simply for doing what they love to do. Or at least that’s the case across a number of precincts anyway, with the New York Post having reported that as of October 20, arrests relating to marijuana offenses have dropped a massive 40% over the past year.
That’s getting on for half of all marijuana arrests, simply disappearing in the course of the year. When you think about all that precious time that can be spent doing more important cop things – (insert your own generic cop joke here) – it’s a hell of a difference over a seriously short period of time.
In one respect, it is no real surprise as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave the city his word in 2014 that those caught with small amounts of weed would no longer be arrested. Some didn’t see his word coming good, but it has – or at least that’s the picture the statistics paint. According to the New York City Police Department, a total of 18,120 arrests were made for offences relating to marijuana as of October 20. By contrast, the same 12-month stretch the year prior saw 29,906 arrests being chalked up.
Which all makes for a very reassuring reading for the tens of thousands of stoners in NYC now having at least one less thing to be paranoid about. Nevertheless, when looking a little closer at the bigger picture, it seems the softly-softly approach to weed tolerance isn’t something that’s being adopted consistently or in a widespread basis, as there are some rather large discrepancies from one area of the city to the next.
De Blasio’s promise to no longer arrest those with no more than 25g of weed on their person went live a while ago, with those being busted simply being given a ticket instead. Unsurprisingly, ticket issuing rates have exploded across the entire city, with some areas having brought back almost no weed arrests at all while others head in the opposite direction. As for what’s causing this, experts suggest that the new law has put the local police force in a rather tricky situation as on one hand they now have the power to basically let pot smokers get away with nothing but a ticket, but on the other there’s a clear line with regard to quantities. So it’s tempting to imagine that some patrolling officers are being heavy handed, while others are letting people get away with perhaps more than they should.
Still, even if there’s quite a bit of imbalance…which it appears there is…arrests for marijuana crimes are still down exponentially and the ticketing system is pulling in extra cash. But at the same time, it’s all very much a mixed message from a city where marijuana use as a whole remains illegal, at least in a technical sense.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s still an enormous step forward on the path toward comprehensive common sense tolerance.