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NYPD To Stop Arresting People Caught Smoking Pot In Public -- With Some Exceptions

June 19, 2018 - 3:14 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Smoking pot on city streets will no longer land you in handcuffs.

The NYPD is ending marijuana arrests. People caught smoking pot in public will be issued summonses instead.

"We believe that this will result in thousands of fewer arrests," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. "In fact, next year we think at least 10,000 fewer New Yorkers will be arrested under this new policy."

But there will be some exceptions.

People will face arrest if they are on probation or parole, if they have existing criminal warrants, don't have identification, have a recent documented history of violence or if their smoking poses a risk to public safety -- like smoking marijuana while driving.

"Today is a day where we take a step into the future, we take a step towards fairness, we take a step towards greater safety," de Blasio said.

The changes are expected to take effect at the end of the summer.

De Blasio says the goal is to end unnecessary arrests and reduce racial disparities among those arrested for pot smoking.

“Nobody’s destiny should hinge on a minor non-violent offense,” said de Blasio. “Neighborhood policing has helped to bring officers and community together, but we still have more work to do to right the wrongs in the criminal justice system. This new policy will help reduce unnecessary arrests, while making our City fairer and safer.” 

“We know that it is not productive to arrest people who have no prior criminal history,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill. “In fact, it hampers our efforts to build trust and strengthen relationships with the people we serve, and it does nothing to further the NYPD’s mission of ridding our streets of those responsible for violence and disorder."

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is taking it a step further.

"Having a conviction can seriously impede the ability to get a job, education, housing and other important services and that's why my office has been developing and will soon announce a program for sealing past marijuana possession convictions for nearly thousands of people in Brooklyn," Gonzalez said.

When asked about endorsing the possible legalization of marijuana in New York state, the mayor said, "I'm not there yet."