The NYPD has been told to stop arresting people for using marijuana in public in New York City

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The NYPD will now issue summons instead of arrests to marijuana smokers. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
  • The New York City mayor directed the New York Police Department to issue summons instead of arrests for public marijuana use.
  • The announcement comes after reports of widespread racial disparities in marijuana arrests.
  • Many New York city and state politicians are expressing support for marijuana legalization measures.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio will officially instruct the New York Police Department to stop arresting people who use marijuana in public, the mayor announcedMonday in a TV interview with NY 1’s Errol Louis.

“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,” he said.

He elaborated that the NYPD will switch to issuing summons to marijuana smokers instead of arresting them on the spot, which is the current policy. This directive comes out of a 30-day NYPD working group the mayor ordered to evaluate how it handles marijuana offenses.

This announcement comes just a week after a New York Times investigation revealed that black New Yorkers are arrested at eight times the rate of their white non-Hispanic counterparts for smoking marijuana. Latino and Hispanic New Yorkers are arrested at five times the rate of whites. The disparities are most striking in Manhattan, where black residents are arrested at 15 times the rate of white ones.

The policy change directed by the mayor, who had long opposed marijuana legalization before this year, reflects a stronger political will for legalization among New York officials.

City Council speaker Corey Johnson backed full legalization in a press conference last week, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced his office will end prosecution of smoking and possession offenses this summer.

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has made marijuana legalization a cornerstone of her campaign and a racial justice issue, arguing that the communities of color disproportionately arrested for marijuana offenses should get a “first shot” at the industry, should it become legalized.

Shortly after, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo made comments in favor of statewide legalization at a campaign event in Brooklyn.

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