Yesterday, Melissa, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, joined by advocates from the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, VOCAL NY, and the Drug Policy Alliance, gathered in front of One Police Plaza to celebrate an internal order issued by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to all precinct commanding officers to stop arresting New Yorkers for small quantities of marijuana if the marijuana was not in plain view.
In 2010, over 54,000 people – mostly black or Latino – were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in New York State. Over 50,000 of those arrests occurred in New York City, making it the most frequent arrest citywide. On Monday, September 19th, responding to mounting public pressure from elected officials and advocates, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order that clarified existing marijuana possession laws, instructing officers not to arrest people for marijuana in public view when complying with an officer’s demand to “empty their pockets.”
Earlier this year, Melissa questioned Commissioner Kelly at two City Council hearings on the NYPD’s marijuana arrest policy, highlighting the immense human and fiscal costs of this enforcement strategy. Melissa endorsed Commissioner Kelly’s operation order and stressed that this is “a huge victory for communities of color in the city of New York.” But the fight is not yet over. Kelly’s internal order can be made permanent, and apply to all of New York State, by passing A.7620 (Jeffries) and S.5187 (Grisanti, R-Buffalo). This legislation would standardize penalties for marijuana possession offences, protect New Yorkers from illegal searches, save taxpayer dollars, and bring down the disproportionately high number of arrests among black and Latino men for marijuana-related crimes by eliminating the misdemeanor charge.
Melissa has introduced a resolution supporting the state legislation and emphasized that she and other advocates “will continue to closely monitor how stop and frisk policies are carried out in our city and to advocate for the passage of the State legislation.”