WHITESTONE—Marijuana arrests have declined more than 60 percent since the city instituted a policy of not arresting most of those found to have 25 grams or less of the drug, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
"In the two full weeks since the policy was implemented, low level marijuana arrests are down more than 60 percent," de Blasio said at the police academy in Queens during a press conference about police body cameras.
According to police statistics, the number of criminal marijuana possession arrests from Nov. 19, the day the policy went into effect, to Nov. 30 fell to 306 from 789 the same time last year, a decrease of 61 percent.
Marijuana arrests are also down year to date. As of Nov. 30 there have been 25,247 arrests for criminal marijuana possession versus 26,742 this time last year, a decrease of almost 6 percent.
The mayor has pitched the new policy as a way to reduce discriminatory policing of mostly black and Latino men.
Instead of being arrested and charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, most people caught with 25 grams or less of the drug will be issued a ticket that is answerable in the city's summons courts. Fines range from $100 to $250.
"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," de Blasio said at a Nov. 10 press conference to announce the change.
The city's five district attorneys have expressed concern about how the policy will work, saying that it could lead to a further clogging of the city's already packed summons courts.
"The concerns were how was it going to work out now procedurally," Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said last month after a meeting with de Blasio at City Hall.
"People going to one summonses court, how many cases will that be a day? If someone doesn't appear will a warrant be issued for their arrest?" added Donovan who is in favor of the policy.
Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres has said the marijuana policy shift does not go far enough. He said the policy will replace "racially discriminatory arrests with racially discriminatory summonses."