Responding to cries of racial disparity in marijuana arrests, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has ordered the city’s police to stop making arrests for small possession. The New York District Attorney’s office released a report recently with data showing that a vast majority of cannabis arrests in the city were people of color. Of 16,925 people arrested for marijuana possession in 2017, 48% were African-American and 28% were Hispanic, according to the report. According to a census, only 53% of the city’s population is black or Hispanic.
As reported by High Times, an aid at City Hall said that Mayor De Blasio issued an order to the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking cannabis and instead issue court summonses. According to the city’s Court website, “convictions to summons are not listed on a person’s criminal record.”
The move is part of the mayor’s overhaul of city police, which has already gone into effect. “The [NYPD] working group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns,” Phil Walzak, the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, told CNN.
And it looks like the New York District Attorney’s office is going along with the program. District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced in a press release that “Effective August 1st, my Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases,” seeing the prosecution of such cases as a misallocation of resources which unnecessarily impacts the community. “Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status, and community involvement,” the press release added.
The motion which sidesteps actual changes in cannabis regulations could just be a stopgap. New York Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has pledged that marijuana legalization will be a top policy priority if she’s elected later this year.
Photo via Flickr user Nick Allen