New York City

NYPD No Longer Arrests Most Public Pot Smokers

What to Know

  • Starting Saturday, the NYPD will no longer arrest most people for smoking pot in public
  • Instead, pot smokers will get a court summons that could result in a $100 fine
  • But police will still make arrests in some cases: outstanding warrants, on parole or probation, a history of violence, a threat to safety

Pot is still illegal in New York City, but smoking it in public likely won't land you in handcuffs anymore. 

The NYPD began enforcing a new policy Saturday that results in summonses, not arrests, for smoking marijuana in public or possessing up to 25 grams. The court summons could result in fines of $100. 

There are still cases where cops would arrest pot smokers, such as those with an outstanding warrant, people on parole or probation, those with a history of violence or who are deemed a public 

Police expect to sharply reduce the number of marijuana arrests.

Marijuana is illegal in New York state except for medical use on a strictly regulated basis, but a state report on the issue recommends legalization.

New York City set out to change its marijuana enforcement policy in May after The New York Times reported that blacks, who make up 24 percent of the city's population, were eight times more likely to be arrested on low-level marijuana charges than whites, who are 43 percent of its population.

Soon after, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said they would scale back marijuana-related prosecutions, and police convened a group to study the policy with input from academics, community leaders and others.

"The glaring racial disparities in who is and is not arrested have contributed to a sense among many in our communities that the system is unfair," Gonzalez said. "This, in turn, contributes to a lack of trust in law enforcement, which makes us all less safe."

Manhattan prosecutors say they'll still pursue cases against marijuana sellers and people posing a significant threat to public safety.

This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also appointed a panel to draft legislation to legalize marijuana in the state.

The proposed legislation will be based on the findings of a multi-agency study Cuomo commissioned in January, which was led by the Department of Health and concluded the positive impacts of regulated marijuana use in the state outweigh the negative impacts.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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