CIVIC CENTER — The NYPD will stop arresting most people caught with small amounts of marijuana and will issue them a ticket instead, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Monday.
Starting on Nov. 19, people caught with 25 grams or less of marijuana will in most cases receive a summons and a fine ranging from $100 and $250, rather than being arrested and charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, Bratton said.
The new policy is a major shift in the way the NYPD has treated marijuana possession.
“I think the fact that you will see fewer unnecessary arrests will be good for New York City as a whole. It will certainly be good for New Yorkers of color and particularly young people of color — there’s no question about that,” de Blasio said during an afternoon press conference.
Police officers will have discretion over whether to write a summons for possession of marijuana in public view or make an arrest, Bratton said. Offenders could still be arrested, for example, if they have an outstanding warrant, he said.
The fine for a first-time marijuana offense will be up to $100 and a second offense within three years could lead to a $250 fine, officials said.
People caught smoking or burning marijuana will still be subject to arrest and a misdemeanor charge.
Both the mayor and police commissioner said the change in policy did not alter their stance on legalizing the drug.
"I am not in favor of legalization of marijuana under any circumstance," Bratton said.
The commissioner added that he and other law enforcement officials would watch and study what is happening in states like Colorado, where marijuana use has been legalized.
The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office stopped prosecuting most people arrested for the first time for low-level pot possession in July.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson lauded the policy change, but said he was "concerned" that the new NYPD policy could lessen prosecutorial review of most marijuana arrests.
“I applaud the mayor’s decision to no longer arrest first-time offenders or individuals found in possession of small amounts of marijuana citywide, similar to the approach that I have taken in Brooklyn," Thompson said in a statement. “However, I am concerned about the due process rights of those who are given marijuana summonses, which for Brooklyn, will be addressed at a location in Manhattan that is already overburdened.”
The head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association responded to Monday's announcement by calling for "clear and precise rules" in enforcing marijuana laws.
"Writing a summons to someone who does not respect the law can result in a volatile situation," PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement. "Police officers always have to be on guard for violent reaction and resistance, which can put them in danger of physical harm and potential disciplinary charges.”
Possession of small amounts of marijuana not in public view was decriminalized in New York State in 1977, but many people, primarily young black and Latino men, were charged with misdemeanors after being caught with small amounts of pot during stop-and-frisks.
"Too many New Yorkers without any prior convictions have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession. Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected. There have been, in some cases, disastrous consequences for individuals and families," the mayor said. "Our intention is to help all New Yorkers, particularly get our young people on the right track and avoid these unnecessary consequences."