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New York City Continues Push to Decriminalize Marijuana

Cannabis Law

The push to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana continues at New York City’s City Hall. Just this year along, Legal Aid lawyers have assisted in 5,934 misdemeanor marijuana-related cases. While that is a significant decline from comparable numbers from 2016, some believe it is still too many.

July was the month, so far, with the highest number of marijuana-related cases with 867, according to New York Daily News. February has shown the fewest cases, with 644. In 2014, the goal was to reduce the amount of Latinos and African Americans entering the criminal justice system for simple marijuana possession charges.

Tina Luongo of Legal Aid said, “At a minimum, what these numbers are saying is that despite some good effort to reduce the number of people who have marijuana charges coming through the criminal justice system…we still have a bit of a way to go.”

Austin Finan, of Mayor de Blasio’s office, says that marijuana case numbers have reduced 37-percent since 2013.

Finan said, “This administration has led a dramatic shift away from unnecessary arrests for low-level marijuana offenses in favor of summonses.”

Throughout NYC, marijuana possession arrests were down 5-percent as of July 9, from the same time in 2016. Finan mentions that the Mayor’s policy isn’t implemented consistently. He said that minority neighborhoods are still being hit hard.

Luongo said, “The arrests are not happening in the neighborhoods equally.”

Generally speaking, if someone has 25-grams or less but the marijuana isn’t in plain view, they’re supposed to get a summons only.

Luongo said, “One of the things we consistently see – still – is a cop will stop you, demand you take it out of your pocket. You show it, and the police officer will sometimes still write that up as (a) misdemeanor as opposed to a violation.”