marijuana arrests new york city
Instead of arresting New Yorkers for smoking marijuana, NYPD will issue summons starting in September. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio has become the latest city official to back stopping marijuana smoking busts in New York City.

“With marijuana legalization likely to occur in our state in the near future, it is critical our city plans for the public safety, health and financial consequences involved,” de Blasio said in a statement Sunday. “While I still have real concerns we must work through, it isn’t difficult to see where this is headed and any responsible policymaker must prepare for that eventuality.”

The mayor’s announcement came less than a week after he gave the NYPD 30 days to institute a plan that would halt “unnecessary” marijuana-related arrests.

Instead of arresting pot smokers, de Blasio wants the NYPD to issue summonses, and a spokesperson for the mayor told the New York Post that police could still arrest those with open warrants as well as potentially frisk said marijuana smokers for additional contraband such as weapons.

 

“The 30-day Working Group on marijuana enforcement is underway, and this issue is certainly part of that review,” NYPD Spokesman Phil Walzak said in a statement after de Blasio’s announcement.

Walzak added that the 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.” 

Currently, nine states and Washington, D.C. have legal recreational marijuana, while Washington, D.C. and 29 states, including New York,  and D.C., also have legal medical marijuana.

Just days before de Blasio’s announcement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced he would no longer prosecute marijuana possession and smoking charges starting Aug. 1, something his Brooklyn counterpart Eric Gonzalez has been doing since 2014.

Additionally, city Comptroller Scott Stringer last week released a report that showed the market for legal adult-use marijuana could rake in $1.1 billion in the city alone — with as much as $436 million in tax revenue for the city as well.

Stringer was quick to point out legalization wasn’t just about money, it was also “about justice” as the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes has had a “devastating and disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic communities for far too long” — something that was also a major factor for the measures taken by Vance and Gonzalez. 

De Blasio’s focus now, he said Sunday, “will be helping to craft the critical regulatory framework that must come before legalization is realized.” 

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