This weekend, the New York Police Department implemented a new marijuana policy intended to finally put a stop to the disproportionate enforcement of prohibition laws against communities of color. The new policy, which took effect on Saturday, September 1st, directs police to issue a court summons to any individual caught with up to 25 grams of weed, or for smoking in public, rather than arresting them. The summons will come with a fine of up to $100.
The city expects that the new policy will result in 10,000 fewer arrests per year. “We’re going to see a humongous drop in people of color being arrested for marijuana,” said NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison to ABC7. "And that was one of the whole goals of this whole new policy." The city also expects the change to reduce the amount of paperwork connected with such arrests.“It’s going to free up our cops to stay out on patrol,” Commissioner James O’Neill said during a radio interview, the New York Post reports. “It’s also going to prevent people that have no prior criminal record from entering into the criminal justice system.”
While this new policy looks great on paper, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD have made these promises before. In 2014, de Blasio and former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that anyone caught with 25 or fewer grams of weed would be subject to a summons, not an arrest. Regardless, the NYPD made 9% more cannabis possession arrests in 2016 than they did in 2015, and a full 90% of those arrested for these minor offenses that year were minorities. Since the implementation of this supposed decriminalization policy, the NYPD has arrested over 75,000 individuals on misdemeanor pot charges, with people of color accounting for 86% of these arrests.