New York police will stop making arrests for low-level marijuana possession this month and instead will write tickets, ending years of arresting people who have no prior convictions for a "minor" offense.
City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton held a press conference today, announcing that the new policy will take effect on November 19. From that day forward, people found in possession of 25 grams or less of weed can be subject to a summons, similar to a traffic citation.
That level of pot possession has been classified as a misdemeanor offense and perpetrators were subject to arrest. Mayor de Blasio said too many people have been arrested in New York for possession and it goes on to hurt them in the future.
"There have been, in some cases, disastrous consequences for individuals and families," de Blasio said at the press conference. "When an individual is arrested for even the smallest possession of marijuana, it hurts their chances to get a good job, it hurts their chances to get housing, it hurts their chances to qualify for a student loan, it can literally follow them the rest of their lives."
De Blasio also said that arrests for simple marijuana possession have disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos in New York, adding that the policy change is another step in the effort to improve relations between police and the community.
NYPD officers will still use their discretion to determine the proper action to take in cases involving weed possession, de Blasio said, but the new guidelines suggest writing a summons instead of making an arrest.
The new rules don't change anything about use of marijuana in New York. Bratton said that anyone burning or smoking weed — no matter how small the amount — will still be subject to arrest. People possessing pot who have outstanding warrants, are lacking identification, or have an amount not consistent with personal use will also be arrested, Bratton said.