No arrests for possession of marijuana 25 grams or less in New York

New York: New Yorkers found possessing marijuana 25 grammes or less will no longer be arrested but instead be given criminal court summons, a shift in policy aimed at rebuilding the frayed relationship between police and communities.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) yesterday outlined a new policy pertaining to the enforcement of low-level marijuana possession offences.

Under the new policy, effective from November 19, the city police would issue summons to people who possess marijuana in a public place in the amounts of 25 grams or less instead of arresting them on misdemeanour charges of criminal possession of marijuana.

"Make no mistake; marijuana is still illegal in New York City. People smoking marijuana in public will continue to be arrested. But possession of small amounts, with certain exceptions, is not considered a high enough level of offence to merit the time and resources the Department spends when arresting people, or the potential associated consequences of criminal justice involvement for the arrestees," said Police Commissioner William Bratton.

The city administration said people will not be eligible for summons if they have an active warrant, are wanted in connection with an active investigation or have no proper identification.

In the first 10 months of this year, the NYPD received approximately 23,000 911 emergency calls from New Yorkers complaining about the sale or public smoking of marijuana in their neighbourhoods, an almost 30 per cent increase over last year.

The new summons policy reflects the distinction New Yorkers make between the more significant crimes of smoking and dealing, and possession of small amounts of marijuana, officials said.

"This new policy will reduce unnecessary arrests for minor marijuana possession and put an end to an era where many of young New Yorkers were being arrested and saddled with criminal records for minor violations," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The Mayor said the new policy is the latest in a series of steps the police and city administration have taken to "rebuild the relationship between the NYPD and the communities they serve."

"We are also enhancing public safety with this new initiative by directing police resources towards more serious crime, and not wasting officer time processing unnecessary arrests," he added.