NYPD Marijuana Policy Changes Announced

BY JORDAN GIBBONS

5 MarijuanaStarting on Nov. 19, New Yorkers who are caught possessing small amounts of marijuana in the City will no longer end up with a trip to the joint.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced this week that the NYPD will only issue summonses to people possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana, rather than being arrested.

The summons to appear in court will result in a $100 fine and a violation, which is not found on a person’s permanent record. A subsequent summons will result in a $250 fine.

Bratton did point out that there are exceptions to the new policy.

“It should be made very clear, that persons who are burning and/or smoking marijuana in public will still be subject to arrest,” he said.

Possessing a small amount of marijuana is a violation, but it becomes a misdemeanor crime once it is in plain view.

People will also still be subject to arrest or a misdemeanor charge if they have an active warrant or a probable cause investigation card. Bratton also said that if a person is unable to produce an ID, they will be transported to the station house where they will be given an opportunity to have somebody bring the proper identification.

The Mayor said this change in policy will rely on training officers effectively and give officers the ability to use their discretion to focus on more serious criminals.

“This policy will allow officers, in the case where they do find it appropriate to give a summons, to continue with their work and to able to put, therefore, more time and energy into fighting more serious crime, rather than get bogged down with the time and energy necessary for an unproductive arrest,” he said.

If the person has more than 25 grams, it will be assumed that it is for sale and they will be charged appropriately.

One cause for the change in policy has been the uneven amount of minority arrests for marijuana possession, despite studies showing that just as many, if not more, white people smoke marijuana.

“Too many New Yorkers without any prior convictions have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession,” de Blasio said. “Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected. There have been, in some cases, disastrous consequences for individuals and families.”

A little over a week before the announcement, a group of five young minority Councilmen sent a letter to de Blasio and Bratton to ensure the City addressed the racial disparities reflected in the low-level marijuana possession arrests.

Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) joined three Brooklyn Democrats; Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal and one Bronx Democrat, Ritchie Torres, in drafting the letter.

“The danger is halting these individuals from going out there and getting a job or student loans,” Richards said. “We don’t believe that they should lose their livelihood. We were very happy to see [de Blasio] respond the way he did.”

Richards said that he does not support legalizing marijuana, but the amount of arrests directed at minorities has an adverse effect in the community through rising unemployment and fewer opportunities for higher education.

The Council will still be looking at other issues surrounding the new policy, such as summonses lacking race statistics.

“We’ll see as we move forward where they’re at in terms of that particular transparency,” Richards said.

Richards also said that he will be meeting with Bratton on Wednesday to discuss the additional issues.

Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, jgibbons@queenspress.com or @jgibbons2.

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