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New York, NY (Updated)— Yesterday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill unveiled a new NYPD policy on marijuana, which states that individuals found smoking marijuana publicly will largely face summonses instead of arrest, starting September 1, 2018. The Mayor’s Office cites that this effort represents a “continuing shift in overall marijuana enforcement to better balance fairness with public safety and quality of life.”

While we recognize and appreciate the attention given to this issue by the administration, our Members will continue to call for the full decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in a way that prioritizes Black and/or Latinx people of color who have been arrested and remain incarcerated in New York due to the unnecessary criminalization of marijuana use and possession. This includes reducing the overall over-policing of communities of color, and an elimination of contact with the criminal justice system for marijuana-related offenses, including criminal summons.

While the Mayor’s Office claims the new policy changes could reduce overall marijuana arrests in NYC by more than 10,000 a year, evidence shows that in other cities and even in New York City, moving from arrests to criminal summons, unfortunately, does not reduce racial disparities in policing and law enforcement – and in fact it only shifts racial disparities to the summons system which historically has even less transparency. The de Blasio administration has refused to publicly report the demographic data on each particular type of summons, even though he committed to doing so in 2015.

In order to truly address racial disparities, the City must put a moratorium on marijuana usage or possession enforcement to end racial disparities and reduce broken windows policing. Mayor de Blasio should instruct the NYPD to stop arresting people for low-level marijuana offenses, period—no carve outs. No one should be excluded under revised marijuana enforcement (including carve outs for probation, parole, arrest history, etc.) We need clear-cut policy affirming that there will no arrests and no justification for putting people into the criminal system due to marijuana usage or possession, which includes:

  • Marijuana should not be used as a pretext for a stop, which feeds into unnecessary stops and broken windows policing.
  • No criminal summonses should be issued for marijuana-related offenses, as criminal summonses can become open warrants.
  • City agencies (ACS, NYCHA, etc.) should adopt decriminalization policies and not discriminate against people for past marijuana offenses
  • A.s should vacate and seal old marijuana arrest records

We would like to acknowledge the oversight work of the New York City Council in May 2018 on marijuana enforcement policy inequities in NYC– led by Speaker Corey Johnson and our Member Donovan Richards, Chair of Public Safety– that led to the Mayor’s decision to look into ending the enforcement disparity and enact policy changes on marijuana enforcement. We thank our Members and Colleagues in the City Council for their continued advocacy around this issue and their ongoing commitment to stand by affected communities. We will continue to call on the Mayor to adopt the above policy recommendations.

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