Since 1977, marijuana possession in New York has been decriminalized for amounts of 25 grams or less, as long as it's not in public view. In reality, marijuana possession is the number one reason for arrest in New York City. To correct this discrepancy, Commissioner Ray Kelly released a memo this week strongly reminding his officers that, "A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marihuana."
While the NYPD conducts its some 600,000 stop-and-frisks, officers commonly ask those stopped to empty their pockets or open their bags, thereby bringing any marijuana into "public view." Declining to do so is your legal right, but a sociologist at Queens college tells the Times that "between two-thirds and three-fourths of people arrested on charges of possession of small amounts of marijuana displayed it at an officer's request."
The vast majority of those arrested for marijuana possession are black or Latino (whites statistically use more marijuana than both those groups), and the head attorney of the Legal Aid Society says, "This will make a tremendous difference because tens of thousands of young people—predominantly people of color—will not be run through the system as criminals."
Mayor Bloomberg's administration has pushed for low-level marijuana arrests, arguing that they deter other forms of crime, and they have not released a comment on the memo. Brooklyn assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies, along with Buffalo GOP state senator are still moving forward on their legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in public view. "Lasting a meaningful change will only be brought about by legislative action," Jefferies says in a statement.
Those giddy at the prospect of not having to cram your stash in unpleasant places shouldn't let their guard down just yet: as the Drug Policy Alliance's director says in a release, "The devil remains in the details as to whether and how the NYPD implements this new directive." And as always, refuse to play a game of Follow The Bee with the contents of your backpack, even it seems like everyone's winning.