New marijuana policy to go into effect in NYC on Saturday

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NEW YORK -- The NYPD's previous policy on marijuana will be going up in smoke Saturday, when a new rule will go into effect that allows most people caught with a small amount of the drug to be issued a summons instead of being handcuffed and arrested.

"I think they should have done this 20 years ago," Hoshaine Novle said in Washington Square Park Friday.

Marijuana is not legal in New York state, but the de Blasio administration said the new citywide policy will likely eliminate 10,000 arrests a year.

The new plan still gives the NYPD the power to search citizens.

"We are going to see a humongous drop in people in communities of color being arrested for marijuana," NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison said Thursday.

Those caught smoking in public or possessing up to 25 grams may result in a court summons, rather than an arrest, according to the NYPD.

However, those caught smoking marijuana in public can still be arrested if they have an open warrant, are on parole or probation, have a history with violence, are a threat to public safety or fail to show identification.

But Queens Councilman Rory Lancman said he doesn't like that some New Yorkers will still end up in handcuffs.

"Unfortunately the mayor's policing and prosecution policy on marijuana still excludes people with prior involvement with the criminal justice system," Lancman said.

The district attorneys of Brooklyn and Manhattan both announced recently they would reduce prosecutions of marijuana cases. This new NYPD policy creates more of a uniform citywide plan.

David Holland, an attorney and marijuana advocate, said even though he worked with the NYPD on their marijuana policy, he still has concerns.

"You run the risk of also creating debtors prisons. You will have someone who doesn't pay a fine, all of a sudden have a warrant out for their arrest," Holland said.

It is up to New York State to legalize the drug. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced there will be a series of listening sessions across the state where New Yorkers will be able to sound off on the possible legalization of marijuana.

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