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Police Commissioner Prohibits Some Minor Pot Arrests

By Tom Liddy | September 24, 2011 2:17pm
The offending plant can be seen sprouting through a chain-link fence on to the sidewalk.
The offending plant can be seen sprouting through a chain-link fence on to the sidewalk.
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Bunny Lane for NYC The Blog

MANHATTAN — Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued an order to his commanders that people cannot be charged with a crime for possessing small, concealed amounts of pot, according to published reports.

Having less than 25 grams of marijuana has been decriminalized for decades, but if the drug is in plain sight, suspects can be charged with criminal possession of the drug, a misdemeanor.

The memo, obtained by WNYC, says that officers cannot charge suspects with a crime "if the marihuana recovered was disclosed to public view at an officer's direction."

The move comes in the wake of a call by Upper Manhattan City Council members to decriminalize low-level pot possession, whether or not the drug is in public view.

The lawmakers criticized the NYPD's use of "stop-and-frisks" in which suspects are often made to empty their pockets, forcing the drugs into plain sight.

More than 50,000 people were arrested for pot possession in 2010 alone at a cost of $75 million to taxpayers.

Under Kelly's order, defendants with concealed drugs are generally to be given summonses or desk appearance tickets and released if they pay $100 bail, the memo says.

The NYPD said the memo did not represent a shift in policy — just a reminder of current procedures, according to the New York Times.

However, a police official told DNAinfo.com that the decision to make an arrest would still be made on a "case-by-case" basis based on whether or not probable cause is established.