Manhattan's District Attorney Cyrus Vance says his office will largely stop prosecuting people for possessing or smoking marijuana starting August 1.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office says it expects that the policy will cut marijuana prosecutions in Manhattan by 96 percent, from 5,000 cases a year to 200.
Although Manhattan will be ending the majority of its prosecutions, it is requesting the city to present limited exceptions with regard to public safety for prosecution. Analysis by The New York Times found that the NYPD's official justification for the racial disparity - that residents in predominantly non-white neighborhoods were more likely to call the police complaining about public weed smoking - could not statistically explain the gap.
The Times found, "Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years". The report said the difference can not entirely be attributed to more residents in predominantly black neighborhoods calling police to complain about marijuana.
On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio announced the New York City Police Department will reform its marijuana enforcement policy within 30 days.
Is this a first step towards making marijuana legal in New York State?
In the heavily minority and immigrant populated 120th Precinct, of the 287 calls made to 311 and 911 related to marijuana the same number of arrests were made, according to data provided by the NYPD to the City Council.
On Tuesday NYPD Commissioner James O'Neil announced the department would put together a 30-day working group to review its marijuana enforcement. However, she recently got into hot bong water for suggesting that affirmative action in the distribution of licenses to sell the drug legally could be a form of reparations for the high number of marijuana arrests in black communities.
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Federal statistics show similar rates of marijuana use among whites, blacks and Hispanics, but about 87 percent of people arrested for pot in New York City are black or Hispanic.
After being elected mayor, de Blasio announced a new policy of cannabis decriminalization, in which anyone caught with under 25 grams of pot would be receive a summons rather than be arrested.
In his speech Tuesday, de Blasio promised changes were coming. "We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement - it's time for those to be a thing of the past, in New York City and all over this country".
The move comes after the release of two major reports about marijuana in New York State. When people are being forced to miss work and miss out on time with their family over a low-level marijuana arrest, something is very wrong with our public policy.
But O'Neill added that officers do not target "any people of color who have no nexus to violence. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade", Frederique continued.
"The grandchild of stop-and-frisk is marijuana arrests based on race", he said.
On the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo commissioned a study on legalization earlier this year.