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New York City to Overhaul Marijuana Arrest Policy

After decades of advocacy and protest, ample millions of life-altering arrests and incarcerations, and billions of dollars and human-hours wasted, NYC residents may soon see some relief in how the Big Apple treats cannabis users of color here in the nation's consumption capital.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that the New York Police Department (NYPD) intends to reform its cannabis enforcement policies over the next month. will reform its cannabis enforcement policies by mid-June. “We must end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement,” de Blasio commented on Twitter.

According to a statement by the Manhattan district attorney's office, which represents the city's largest borough, the office will no longer file charges in most marijuana possession and smoking cases, but with "limited exceptions" as relating to public safety.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the formation of a 30-day working group to review the police department’s marijuana enforcement policy.

The working group will be made up of a “diverse cross-section” of NYPD executive leadership to assess the police department’s policies and procedures concerning arrests and summonses for marijuana-related offenses, the NYPD said. The group will also seek outside expert opinion from advocates, advocacy organizations, attorneys, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and other nonprofit organizations.

New York City to Overhaul Marijuana Arrest Policy

Speaking at the Center for American Progress’ 2018 Ideas Conference in Washington, D.C. early Tuesday afternoon, de Blasio said the city will reform and revamp its policy within the next 30 days.

There were 61,000 marijuana arrests in de Blasio’s first three years as mayor. Under the late former Mayor Ed Koch, there were 6,000 arrests and under former Mayor David Dinkins’ tenure, there were 3,000 arrests. Under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, it was 18,000 and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure saw 112,000 arrests.

Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, commented on the city's announcement in a statement, “The conversations about overpolicing of marijuana in primarily communities of color and the economic potential that legalization represents are clearly intertwined. The way in which New York legalizes marijuana must be responsive to our legacy as the marijuana arrest capital of the world."

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