NYPD to issues summonses for most public marijuana offenses

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Tim Fleischer reports on the latest changes in police treatment of public marijuana use in NYC.

New York City unveiled a major new plan concerning marijuana enforcement Tuesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill discussed the new policy, which for some people means they won't be arrested if they are caught with pot. It comes after critics accused the prior policy of targeting minorities and for being too harsh.

It is still illegal to smoke marijuana in public, but starting September 1, the NYPD will issue criminal summonses to most people instead of arresting them.

Officers will still arrest people with prior arrests for violent crimes, parolees, drivers and some others. People with summonses will have to go to court and pay a $100 fine.

"If you have no ID or refuse to produce ID, you are subject to arrest," NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison said. "Parole, probation, existing warrants, past violent crimes, you are subject to arrest."

The mayor believes these changes will reduce arrests by 10,000 a year.

"New Yorkers with no prior record will receive a summons instead of an arrest for smoking marijuana publicly," de Blasio said. "That's 10,000 lives that will be affected."

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance had already announced his office will stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases August 1.

The state's top health official said Monday that a report on marijuana will recommend legalization.

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year this week, suggesting it'll be 2019 at the earliest before the issue is considered.

"My hope is that I would hear more civil summonses for some of the charges as opposed to criminal, but we are moving in the right direction," City Councilman Jumaane Williams said.

In recent weeks, calls for this sort of action have come from a variety of leaders.

"The way we handle marijuana in New York City is irrational, insane and unfair," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.

Johnson was flanked by the Rev. Al Sharpton and others back in May, denouncing the way the city handles marijuana from its policies to its policing.

They believe there is racial disparity in many marijuana arrests, mostly of blacks and Hispanics.

"Now the grandchild of Stop and Frisk is marijuana arrests based on race," Sharpton said.

Others want to take it further.

"We believe we should legalize it, regulate it, tax it and use the money to fund drug treatment programs," Johnson said.

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