Has the marijuana liberalization sweeping the United States finally arrived in its largest city? The New York Times reported Sunday that the NYPD will stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana and will issue a ticket and summons to court instead.
New York City's evolution on marijuana enforcement reflects, in part, concern that the practice disproportionately affects minorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio staked his campaign on ending stop and frisk, a policing tactic that has drawn widespread criticism for fomenting racial prejudice.
But marijuana enforcement is arguably no better. In the first eight months of this year, 86 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession were black or Latino. (According to the 2010 census, they together comprise just over 60 percent of the city's population.) Marijuana enforcement also ensnares many first-time offenders. Seventy-four percent of those arrested for marijuana possession have no prior record.
The Times reports that the administration will formally role out the policy shift later this week when de Blasio meets with the city's five district attorneys. Important details—such as the amount defining "small amounts"—remain undetermined. But experts on the city's drug law enforcement are already skeptical that the policy change will make much of a difference.