The City of New York has reduced the severity of a number of lower-level crimes from misdemeanors, which are criminal matters, to infractions, which are civil cases punishable by fines and community service. The crimes in question include public urination and public drinking, for example.
Almost two years ago, Kalief Browder killed himself after having spent three years in solitary confinement awaiting trial for a misdemeanor. His suicide drew attention to the problem of young offenders -- usually Black or Hispanic -- being held in jail for indeterminate periods even though their charges are minor. Mayor Bill de Blasio was inspired by the story to call for reform.
Last month, New York finally launched its own medical marijuana program - making it the 23rd state in the country to legalize the medical use of cannabis. However, while this new legislation was supposed to help those patients most it need, some argue that the program is simply too restrictive for many patients to do much good.
Citing statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, a recent report issued by the Drug Policy Alliance noted that the number of arrests in New York City for low-level marijuana possession offenses plummeted to just 16,590 in 2015 - marking the first time since 1996 that marijuana arrests have been below 17,000.
The only thing worse than facing charges for a crime you did not commit is actually being convicted and sent to jail for the same crime.
If Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has her way, the federal laws associated with gun trafficking between states are going to get much tougher this year.