Smoking marijuana in public should no longer result in arrests, de Blasio says

Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking steps to prepare for what he said is the
Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking steps to prepare for what he said is the “likely” legalization of recreational marijuana in New York. Photo Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday he will take steps to prepare for the “likely” legalization of recreational marijuana in the city.

The mayor will order the NYPD, which is currently holding a 30-day working group that examines its marijuana policing methods, to stop arresting New Yorkers who smoke up in public and to instead issue them summonses.

He also announced an interagency task force that will convene to investigate issues surrounding the potential legalization of pot, such as policing, “facility siting, public health, education, small business engagement, and economic fairness,” according to a City Hall spokesman.

De Blasio previously has been cautious when it comes to marijuana legalization, citing concerns over “the corporatization” of the substance, but he said the city should be ready with a legal framework when decriminalization arrives.

“With marijuana legalization likely to occur in our state in the near future, it is critical our city plans for the public safety, health, and financial consequences involved,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The Daily News first reported the announcement on Sunday afternoon.

During his weekly appearance on “The “Brian Lehrer Show” Friday, de Blasio discussed some of the issues he had when it came to enforcing laws once pot was legal.

“The dynamics of how you decide to address that, which type of measure you use — whether it’s arrest, or summons or some other measure, and how you make sure that enforcement is fair and equal — is a discussion in every state,” he said.

A spokesman for the mayor said there is no current timetable for when the interagency task force will assemble.

A spokesman for the NYPD said the department is exploring the notion of giving summonses rather than making arrests for public pot smoking, in the 30-day review.

“The 30-day working group on marijuana enforcement is underway, and this issue is certainly part of that review,” said NYPD spokesman Phillip Walzak. “The working group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns.”

Responding to data showing a racial disparity in arrests, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill told the City Council last week that officers do not target minority marijuana users.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for a study of decriminalization and said that it is inevitable given the policy changes in other states.

Last week, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said starting in August his office will stop prosecuting most marijuana possession and smoking cases.