What to Know
- Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill revealed a new enforcement policy when it comes to marijuana in the Big Apple
- Starting Sept. 1 New Yorkers with no prior record who are found smoking marijuana will receive a summons and will not be arrested
- On Monday New York's top health official saying a long-awaited state report on marijuana will recommend state legalization
Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill revealed a new enforcement policy Tuesday when it comes to marijuana in New York City, which could lead to fewer arrests.
De Blasio and O’Neill announced that starting Sept. 1 New Yorkers with no prior record who are found smoking marijuana will receive a summons and will not be arrested.
De Blasio said this new policy is expected to reduce marijuana arrests by 10,000 annually.
“We take a step toward the future. We take a step toward fairness. We take a step toward continued safety,” de Blasio said, adding that the move was four years in the making.
However, arrests will still take place if the smoker is on probation or parole, if they have existing criminal warrants, don’t have identification, have recent documented history of violence or their smoking poses an immediate public safety risk, such as smoking will driving.
Last month, de Blasio said he wants the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking pot in public and instead hand out summonses.
A working group comprised of district attorneys, public defendersm community groups, educators, drug policy advocates, tenant organizations, church leaders, police unions and more all took part an contributed in coming up with the new policy.
O’Neill said he supports the new policy, stating that arrests for low level marijuana-related crimes have “no direct impact on public safety” and that law enforcement is “not in the business” of making criminals out of people.
“I’m very optimistic for what’s ahead,” O’Neill said.
Patrol officers will get guidance on how to implement the new policy throughout the summer.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez was also present at the press conference to voice his support for a policy that “insures fairness and equal justice.”
Gonzalez and councilmembers Diana Ayala and Donovan Richards also said that decriminalizing marijuana will lead to fewer arrests, particularly among black men and minorities since this group is disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana crimes even though studies show that Caucasian men use marijuana at the same rate.
Gonzalez, said that over 90 percent of those arrested for marijuana in Brooklyn are people of color.
Additionally, Gonzalez said that he is in the process of creating a program to take a look at prior marijuana convictions to seal or vacate them. Gonzalez said he expects to have an announcement regarding that program in the next few weeks.
Although, de Blasio said there is still ongoing work that will need to take place to fully address disparity, O'Neill said the NYPD didn't target people by race.
While this new policy is a step forward toward decriminalizing marijuana, de Blasio said he is still not ready to jump on board and legalize marijuana.
“We are at the dawn of something brand new,” he said, adding, “First, we need to come up with regulatory framework and then it would be appropriate to move forward with legalization.“
The announcement comes on the heels of New York's top health official saying a long-awaited state report on marijuana will recommend state legalization.
Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Monday in Brooklyn that officials examined the pros and cons of legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana and determined the benefits of legalization outweighed the negatives.
The report is now being finalized. Zucker's boss, Gov. Cuomo, has long expressed concerns about legalization but ordered the study in January after coming under pressure from legalization supporters.
Don't count on legal weed just yet, however. Lawmakers must approve any legalization proposal but plan to adjourn for the year this week.
Two neighboring states, Massachusetts and Vermont, are among those moving toward legalization.
New York has a medical marijuana program allowing patients with qualifying conditions to use non-smokeable forms of pot.