N.Y. Mayor de Blasio Tells Police To Stop Arresting People For Smoking Marijuana In Public

The NYPD will issue summonses for smoking marijuana in public, instead of making arrests.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has told the New York Police Department (NYPD) to stop arrests for smoking marijuana in public, CNN reports.

This was revealed by a city hall aide, following mayor de Blasio’s announcement of NYPD marijuana enforcement policies “overhaul.”

“We must end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement,” de Blasio tweeted on May 15.

Currently, smoking marijuana in public can lead to arrests, and marijuana possession can lead to a summons. The overhaul de Blasio had initially announced via Twitter, will reevaluate New York City’s marijuana enforcement procedures and present mayor’s recommendations within 30 days.

The mayor has, according to CNN, made it clear that ending public marijuana smoking arrests is necessary. The NYPD’s working group, meant to reevaluate the police department’s marijuana enforcement policies, is already underway.

“The working group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Phil Walzak told CNN.

As The Hill noted, data from the Manhattan district attorney’s office shows that enforcement disproportionally affects minorities.

According to the report, thousands of New Yorkers enter the criminal justice system each year for personal use of marijuana, although polls clearly show support for legalization. The office, which supports the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, states that the criminal enforcement of laws against marijuana use and possession has disfavored minorities.

Furthermore, according to the same report, in 2017, 16,925 people in New York City were arrested on the charge of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree. Eighty six percent were people of color.

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill told CNN that the police department does not target minorities, but that there are indeed differences in arrest rates, which “need an honest assessment.” The NYPD should not, O’Neill said, make arrests that don’t impact public safety.

Medical marijuana is legal under New York law, although it cannot be smoked. Marijuana is a Schedule one drug under federal law, which means it is illegal. However, some states, like New York, have decriminalized it, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of marijuana.

Under the District Attorney’s new policy, people who violate New York’s marijuana laws would not be arrested, they will be issued summonses.

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