Articles Tagged with marijuana

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If you are reading this blog, you may be one of the many people under the impression that smoking and possessing marijuana in New York City is now legal. Or, perhaps you’ve been issued a summons accusing you of doing so. First of all, marijuana possession is still illegal in New York City and State, and such will be the case unless and until the legislature acts to amend the law.

What has changed however, is the New York Police Department’s approach to marijuana arrests. In short, you can absolutely still be charged with a crime if caught smoking or possessing marijuana in public. The NYPD, however, has announced that it will cease making full-blown arrests and instead will issue summonses in these cases with limited exceptions (if the person they stop is on probation or parole, has outstanding warrants or a history of violence, or is in violation of another law (ie, DWI drugs).

A summons is a pink ticket handed to you by a police officer which can charge you with a crime or a violation. If you receive one, it means you have been commanded to answer misdemeanor and/or violation charges in a Court of law. Failure to abide by the summons and appear in Court can and will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. So you (or a lawyer who can go on your behalf – see below) must answer the ticket personally.

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. recently announced a change in policy that will soon effect many low-level marijuana offenders in Manhattan. To those who smoke and possess marijuana in New York City, the message was clear: he does not want to prosecute you. The new policy will be aimed at countering the NYPD’s proven disparate treatment of racial minorities in the form of unequal enforcement of the marijuana laws, as well as reduce the number of low-level cases that are handled in the City’s Courts by the thousands. Echoing Vance’s desire to reduce unnecessary arrests and disparity in the enforcement of the law, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the NYPD would be required to overhaul it’s marijuana policy as well.

Vance’s policy change comes on the heels of a disturbing (albeit unsurprising) study which revealed that African-Americans are arrested for low-level marijuana offenses at a rate 8 times that of whites in New York City, and 15 times more than white people in Manhattan alone. The critical component of the study of course indicated that both African-American and white folks use marijuana at the same rate.

In light of these (and other) statistics, beginning on August 1, 2018, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will simply stop prosecuting low-level criminal cases involving smoking and possession of marijuana, with few exemptions. Yes, you read that correctly: If you are arrested for smoking a marijuana cigarette, joint, blunt or pipe in public, or otherwise possess a small enough quantity of marijuana, the Manhattan DA’s office will not prosecute you as of that date. DA Vance expects that the number of marijuana cases handled by the system annually to be reduced from roughly 5,000 to 200 as a result.