By Benjie Cooper
YouTube: Lucid’s Vlog
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the first change included in the thirty-day overhaul of the NYPD’s marijuana arrest policies that he talked about in a press conference last week. Changes in the department are largely in response to a study that highlighted a large racial disparity in cannabis arrests.
Over the weekend, the mayor told officials at the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking cannabis in public. Instead, officers are supposed to issue summonses as well as a fine for public consumption.
Current law enforcement policy mandates that people caught openly smoking be arrested, fingerprinted, and appear in court; a process that consumes valuable man-hours and other resources.
“Last year in Manhattan we had five-thousand cases where individuals were arrested for holding a lit marijuana cigarette,” said Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr in a news conference. “And those cases come into our criminal justice system and have to be processed and then take up the time of a judge, the defense counsel, a prosecutor, administrative resources.”
“And quite honestly,” he said. “There are no sanctions that are imposed as a consequence of the case coming in. There is no sanction of going to jail; there is no real rehabilitation.”
Vance and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced last week that they would be ending their prosecution of most possession and smoking cases.
City Hall Spokesperson, Eric Phillips tweeted Sunday that the mayor is preparing for legalization. Regardless of Bill de Blasio’s personal feelings on cannabis legalization, he knows it will happen soon and believes it is crucial to the city to have plans for public safety and potential health and financial consequences.
Any new policies created during the mayor’s thirty-day overhaul are not likely to be officially implemented until the end of the summer.