(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he opposes legalizing marijuana - or any other illicit drug - but that New York City plans to stop booking and arraigning many people arrested on low-level marijuana-possession charges.
Bloomberg discussed the issue on his weekly WOR Radio show Friday. A day earlier, he announced the city's planned policy change.
Bloomberg says he opposes legalizing marijuana because he says it's stronger than it used to be. He added that if marijuana were legal, those dealers would just start selling something else, like cocaine.
Starting next month, people who get picked up on charges of having a small amount of marijuana will be released with desk appearance tickets if they have ID and no open warrants. He says the change will ease congestion in courts and jails.
A 2012 report released by the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit group which advocates for drug policy reform, reveals that marijuana possession was the largest arrest category in the city in 2011, and that the number of these arrests had been increasing for seven years.
Under a 1977 New York State law, low-level marijuana possession is a non-arrestable offense unless it's in public view or burning. But critics say many of the arrests are the result of New York's "stop and frisk" policy, during which police will make people empty their pockets and then arrest them for having the drug out in public, the New York Times reports.
In September of 2011, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued a memo reminding officers that anyone publicly displaying marijuana under police orders could not legally be arrested, but later said the directive was not an admittance of police misapplying the law, the Times reports.