Many New York City potheads, smoke shop workers and ordinary residents agree that Mayor de Blasio's new, more lenient policies on low-level marijuana possession will bring good vibes to the city. An informal, highly unscientific sample of people walking, working and loitering in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood Monday night suggests that support for loosening the city's pot laws is a step in the right direction.
"This is a long time coming. I think it's only a good thing for them to stop arresting people and putting them in jail over something as silly as smoking weed," Paul Mayer, a 20-year-old student, said Friday as he smoked a cigarette and waited for friends to come out of the Addiction NYC smoke shop on St. Mark's Place. "Smoking a bowl never hurt anybody."
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton announced the shift in New York City law enforcement's approach to marijuana on Monday, saying that police officers will soon be permitted to issue summonses -- essentially tickets -- to people committing certain minor marijuana offenses. Officers will be allowed to issue summonses to people who possess 25 grams or less of pot in a public place, allowing the perpetrators to avoid being handcuffed, booked and fingerprinted.
Previously, possession of a small amount of marijuana was treated as a misdemeanor offense. Smoking marijuana in public will still be considered a misdemeanor, and laws regarding selling pot and possessing larger quantities will not be affected by de Blasio's new policy, Bratton said.
The law is aimed at freeing up police resources for more serious crimes, while keeping non-violent, low-threat offenders out of prison. It goes into effect Nov. 19.
“Too many New Yorkers without any prior convictions have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession," de Blasio said. "[T]his policy will allow officers, in the case where they do find it appropriate to give a summons, to continue on with their work, and to able to put, therefore, more time and energy into fighting more serious crime."
Jay Malhi, a retail clerk at Optimo Smoke Shop on First Avenue, said he supports the policy because it will better prioritize limited law enforcement resources, increase tax revenues, generate jobs and keep good people out of jail.
"More people die of drunk drivers as opposed to smoking a joint and killing someone. I've never heard of that one so they should focus on other stuff ... It's less for NYPD to do. They don't have to look at petty things, they can focus on bigger crimes," he said Monday night from behind the counter at Optimo, which sells pipes, rolling papers and other smoking accessories. "People are happy about it and now they want [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo to take the further step."
Sonya, a 27-year-old who works at a store on St. Mark's and asked that her last name be withheld, said Monday night that she supports the change but would also prefer that it go further.
"This is cool; it's awesome you can get a ticket instead of going to jail, but whatever. I wish there were no tickets for possession in general, unless you were trying to sell it in big quantities," she said.
"Being on this block specifically, I don't think it's going to change much. I've lived here for eight years and I know all my neighbors smoke and I'll smell it at least twice whenever I walk down the block. Maybe people won't whisper every two minutes, 'hey do you have any pot?'"