New Cannabis Decriminalization Doesn’t Go Far Enough in the Big Apple

During a live television interview on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would be instructing the NYPD to stop arresting people who are using cannabis in public.

This goes beyond similar moves that focused on simple possession of small amounts of cannabis and addresses public consumption – a taboo topic in even the most cannabis-friendly cities and states.

But before you spark a blunt in the Bronx or dab diamonds on the streets of Queens you gotta know that the mayor’s instructions don’t tell cops to completely ignore or allow this behavior, but to issue court summons instead of going straight for the handcuffs.

How this will affect an already stressed court system is yet to be determined but so far Manhattan DA Cy Vance says that after this summer his office will no longer even prosecute low level cannabis possession or consumption charges.

It might seem like a broken record but it bears repeating that minorities are discriminated against far too often when it comes to cannabis related crimes and in Manhattan a black man is 15x more likely to get arrested over some weed than a white guy.

So, essentially we are looking at another creeping form of decriminalization of cannabis which is a move in the right direction, but rarely if ever is it the answer.

New York State Senator Diane Savino is tired of her Democratic colleagues using this inch-by-inch approach to cannabis reform.

In an exclusive interview with Cannabis Wire, Senator Savino got right to the root of the issue, saying of her political allies, “The ones who are talking about it publicly, they’re jumping on it from the criminal justice aspect and the fact that the laws have not been applied equally to people based upon a race. And there’s no doubt about that. But as I keep reminding them if you simply decriminalize marijuana so we’re all treated the same way by the criminal justice system, then you're still buying it from criminals! So if you want to really do something you have to create a legal, regulated market.”

She nails it – you cannot support demand but punish supply.

The mayor’s move is the latest in his sudden shift on cannabis legalization – something he was very much opposed to until just a year ago when the political cover became sufficient.

He is not alone in that recent revelation, however. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo was reluctantly spurred to speak out in favor of legalizing recreational use of cannabis as a primary challenger from his own party has forced him to move left on the issue.

Senator Savino is less than impressed with her party members’ cautious baby steps and she’s not afraid to call them out, telling Cannabis Wire that legal weed isn’t as important to her party as some may think. “They say it’s a party platform issue, but they don’t do anything to move it forward,” Savino bluntly states.

The New York State Department of Health was tasked by the governor in January to study the “health, criminal justice and economic impacts of a regulated marijuana program in the state of New York” and, shocking nobody, the report they just released highly favored the implementation of a legal adult recreational cannabis use program for the state.

As the lead sponsor for the state’s medical marijuana legislation in 2014, Senator Savino is sure to be instrumental in ushering in the rec side of things, a process she hopes to begin in January of next year.

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