NEW YORK – lighting up a joint in the Big Apple would be lighter to some wallet, but will not lead to handcuffs in most cases, once New York City’s updated marijuana enforcement policy shall enter into force on the Labor Day weekend.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday police officers will shift to the issuing of criminal summonses for public marijuana smoking from Sept. 1 — he estimates it will eliminate at least 10,000 arrests per year. The Democrat, ordered the review last month after a report showed persistent racial gaps in marijuana arrests.
“Nobody’s fate should hinge on a small, non-violent crime,” said de Blasio.
Officers still arrest suspect smokers if they are on parole or probation, have open warrants, violent criminal history or non-identification, the head of the Patrol Rodney Harrison said. Getting high while driving will also lead to arrest, ” he said.
Kassandra Frederique, the New York state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the exceptions signaled authorities still has the feel of “certain groups of people who deserve to be criminalized” and that the city had found a way to skirt the issue on racial differences.”
Frederique mentioned in the summons, which a trip to the court and the payment of a $100 fine, a “backdoor in the criminal justice system”, because people who miss their court date could wind up with a warrant out for their arrest.
Brooklyn district Attorney Eric Gonzalez supported the policy change and said that he was working on a process for the sealing of the records of thousands of people with marijuana-related beliefs, which can hinder their ability to get a job or safe housing.
“We need to have a sense of justice to the past at the same time we carry out this new enforcement policy,” said Gonzalez. “We are going to a reality in which marijuana is no longer serve as a gateway to our criminal justice system, with all its collateral consequences.”
New York to change its marijuana enforcement policy in May after The New York Times reported blacks in the city were eight times more likely to be arrested on low level marijuana charges as white people.
Soon after, Gonzalez and a Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said they would scale back marijuana-related prosecution and police convened a group to study the policies with the input of academics, community leaders and others.
“The NYPD is not in the business of making criminals of people with no previous arrest history,” said the Commissioner of Police, James O’neill, denies officers were aimed at anyone on the basis of race. “We know that it is not productive.”
Marijuana is illegal in the state of New York, except for medical use on a strictly regulated, but on the basis of the state’s top health official said Monday that a new report on the issue to recommend legalization.
The legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year this week, which suggests that it does not consider legalization until 2019 at the earliest, leaving the local authorities and the critics spar over how smokers are treated under the existing law.
“The replacement of subpoenas for arrests is definitely an improvement,” said the New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman, “but not enough to end the counterproductive and discriminatory policing that is disproportionate and adverse effects on communities of color.”
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