By Steve Elliott
When Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in New York City, one of his leading initiatives was responding to possession of small amounts of marijuana with summonses rather than arrests. At the news conference announcing the change -- which affected possession cases involving up to 25 grams of weed -- NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton stood beside the mayor, holding up a bag of oregano measuring 25 grams, as an educational prop for how much pot is allowable.
Last week, this time without the mayor, Commissioner Bratton turned his attention once again to marijuana, report J. David Goodman and Matt Flegenheimer at the New York Times. Bratton announced homicides were up to 54 through March 1, compared with 45 over the same period last year, as were shootings -- and he claimed marijuana was a factor in the violence.
"The seemingly innocent drug that's being legalized around the country -- in this city, people are killing each other over marijuana," Bratton dramatically announced.
But does the commissioner's sharp turn towards reefer madness territory indicate a schism in the de Blasio administration's approach to cannabis? The mayor said he supports the new policy regarding low-level marijuana possession, voicing concerns that arrests for small amounts of pot disproportionately affect the black and Hispanic communities.