For the past year, community leaders and concerned citizens have demonstrated and spoken out against Mayor Bloomberg's aggressive marijuana arrest policies, which has led to NYC becoming the low-level marijuana arrest capital of the world. Now, a group of City Council and Assembly members assembled outside of City Hall this morning to introduce a new resolution to try to curtail what they call the "racially biased, costly marijuana arrest crusade in NYC."

Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council members including Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Jumanne Williams all appeared at City Hall today to speak on behalf of the resolution; they argue that the city wastes $75 million annually on these marijuana arrests, while essential social services are being cut or eliminated. They allege that the racial disparities in the arrests have unfairly led to the arrests of tens of thousands of Black and Latino young men.

Most of all, the group wants police to simply follow the intent of the existing NY Marijuana Decriminalization Law of 1977, which states that possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana is decriminalized; unless it's burning or in public view, it's a violation worth a $100 fine, not an arrestable offense. However, they charge that the NYPD has routinely illegally searched or tricked people into showing them marijuana in their pockets so they can arrest them for public possession.

The new bill would get rid of the public/private distinction and give anyone caught with 25 grams or less the $100 fine. At a demonstration in May, City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke out about the law as it is currently being used: "It's a corruption of the intent of the law. That cannot stand. It should not stand. And again what we are seeing is young people under the age of 30 being criminalized unnecessarily. And at the end of the day it's an inefficient use of our city resources."

The NYPD arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses last year, and according to a Drug Policy Alliance report, "86 percent of those arrested are Black or Latino, even though research consistently shows that young whites use marijuana at higher rates." In addition, NYPD officers made 601,055 street stops last year, the first time that number has topped the 600K mark.

Bloomberg aide Frank Barry wrote to the Times earlier this summer to defend the mayor's policies: “Hot-spot policing that focuses on the most violent neighborhoods has led to dramatic reductions in violent crime. Marijuana arrests can be an effective tool for suppressing the expansion of street-level drug markets and the corresponding violence.” We've contacted Assemblyman Jeffries for comment on the new resolution, and why he thinks NYC has relied on these low-level arrests so heavily over the last decade.