The New York Police Department, the mayor and the city's top prosecutors on Monday endorsed a proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to decriminalize the open possession of small amounts of marijuana in an effort to qualm the number of people arrested as a result of police stops, according to CNN.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose Police Department made about 50,000 arrests last year for low-level marijuana possession, said he agrees with Cuomo's proposal in part because it would still allow police to arrest people who smoke marijuana in public, while still enforcing the stop-and-frisk practice.
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Bloomberg and police officials say the practice has made the city safer. However, the controversial practice has been criticized as racially biased by advocates for minority communities, who noted that most of the arrests are of black and Hispanic residents.
The proposal will head to the Republican-led State Senate, where it is likely to carry significant weight due to its majority support from city officials and residents of New York.
Cuomo, a Democrat, framed the issue as one of racial justice as well as common sense, saying that New York City police waste too much time and resources by making tens of thousands unnecessary arrests.
As it stands, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a crime only if it is in public view, but many arrests have been occurring when the police order someone stopped to empty his or her pockets, making the marijuana visible-a phenomenon the governor called an "aggravated complication" of the stop-and-frisk practice.
The governor's announcement has been lauded by lawmakers from minority neighborhoods and civil rights groups who agree it is a step in the right direction for social justice.
Under Cuomo's proposal, the state would downgrade the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana in public view from a misdemeanor to a violation, with a maximum fine of $100 for first-time drug offenders. It is already a violation to possess that amount without putting it into public view.