New York City changes marijuana arrest policy

NEW YORK — The majority of New Yorkers found smoking marijuana in public will soon receive a summons instead of being arrested, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Police will shift their enforcement of marijuana laws by Sept. 1. It will help reduce marijuana arrests by about 10,000 per year.

“Nobody’s destiny should hinge on a minor non-violent offense,” de Blasio said. “Neighborhood policing has helped to bring officers and community together, but we still have more work to do to right the wrongs in the criminal justice system. This new policy will help reduce unnecessary arrests, while making our city fairer and safer."

While most people caught smoking marijuana in public will receive a criminal summons, officers will still arrest those with prior arrests for violent crimes, parolees, driver and some others under the new policy.

Those individuals who are given summonses will have to go to court and pay a $100 fine.

The city's announcement comes one month after the NYPD formed a working group to review the department’s marijuana enforcement across demographics.

Data shows marijuana arrests disproportionately impact communities of color. Last year, 86 percent of those arrested for low-level marijuana possession were black and Hispanic.

“We know that it is not productive to arrest people who have no prior criminal history,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “In fact, it hampers our efforts to build trust and strengthen relationships with the people we serve, and it does nothing to further the NYPD’s mission of ridding our streets of those responsible for violence and disorder. Issuing summonses for marijuana offenses that do not directly affect public safety will allow our officers to do their jobs effectively and safely, and in a way that always promotes public safety and quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

Manhattan's district attorney had already announced that his office will stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases on Aug. 1.

The state's top health official said Monday that a report on marijuana will recommend legalization. Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year this week, suggesting it'll be 2019 at the earliest before the issue is considered.