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NYC mayor promises to overhaul how marijuana laws are enforced

LOWER MANHATTAN — New York City will overhaul its marijuana policies in the next 30 days, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

His pledge comes as data reveals the enforcement of laws disproportionately impacts communities of color. Last year, 86 percent of those arrested for low-level marijuana possession were black and Hispanic.

“The NYPD will overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement within the next 30 days,” de Blasio said in Washington at a conference Tuesday afternoon. “We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement. It’s time for those to be a thing of the past, in New York City and all over this country.”

Also on Tuesday, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill formed a 30-day working group to review the department’s marijuana enforcement across demographics.

“There are differences in arrest rates, and they have persisted going back many years, long before this current administration,” O’Neill said. “We need an honest assessment about why they exist and balance it in the context of the public safety needs of all communities.”

Marijuana policy in the city changed during de Blasio’s first term. Police now issue summonses when someone is found in possession of small quantities of marijuana, instead of making arrests.

O’Neill said the overall numbers reflect that new approach.

The change comes as New York State moves toward potentially legalizing marijuana.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug” less than a year ago, now plans to form a panel to study its legalization.

A newly released analysis from city Comptroller Scott Stringer found that move could bring $336 million in tax revenue to New York City on top of $436 million for the state.

The tax revenue would be earned from the more than $3 billion the marijuana dispensary and distribution business would bring to the city and state, Stringer’s report concluded.

“This is not just about dollars – it’s about justice,” Stringer said in a statement. “Not only is marijuana an untapped revenue source for the city and the state, but the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic communities for far too long.”

“There is simply no reason for New York to be stuck in the dark ages,” Stringer continued. “This new analysis shows just how much New York City and State stand to benefit by moving toward legalization.”