De Blasio to NYPD: stop arresting New Yorkers smoking marijuana on street

Mayor tells police to issue summons instead as figures show in Manhattan black people are 15 times more likely to be arrested for public pot smoking

Bill De Blasio often boasts of being the mayor that stopped people get arrested for low-level marijuana possession. Yet there were 17,880 apprehends last year for personal marijuana consumption, nearly all of them for smoking in public rather than for having with marijuana on their person. The number is considerably lower than under Michael Bloomberg, the previous mayor, but the racial disparity of those arrested is shocking: 86% of those arrested were people of colour. In Manhattan, the figures has become even more stark: a New York Times investigation discoveredblack people were 15 times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people.

Those figures have pushed De Blasio to go further, informing the NYPD to stop arresting people caught smoking in public, and to issue a summons instead.

De Blasio is not able to instantly change NYPD policy, but his statement is likely to influence an review of marijuana procedures currently taking place. It also arrives just days after the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance announced he would be ending prosecution in all marijuana possession and smoking instances after 1 August.

The move seems like another step towards New York legalising marijuana for recreational use. De Blasio is putting together a taskforce to prepare the city for outright legalisation, Governor Andrew Cuomo has set up his own” marijuana legalization taskforce” and Democratic senator Chuck Schumer has backed a bill for federal legalisation.

It goes during a year when many local and state-level lawmakers have been in conflict with the White House and federal drugs policy. While marijuana is legal for recreational use in nations like California and Alaska, and decriminalised in a further 13, the prosecutor general Jeff Sessions has attempted to end a policy of federal non-interference in nations with marijuanas friendly statutes- although he has found a lack of support in Congress.

Gubernatorial primary nominee Cynthia Nixon has said New York is still moving too slowly and stimulated the racial inequality in marijuana apprehends a central part of her campaign. She said:” For white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal, for a long time. Isn’t it time we decriminalize for everyone else ?”

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