Stoners in New York City can probably worry less about getting arrested for their habit -- at least if they live in certain precincts. Marijuana arrests through Oct. 20 are down 40 percent from last year’s numbers, the New York Post reported Sunday.
After Mayor Bill de Blasio promised last year to stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, the NYPD is following through. Officers arrested 18,120 people as of Oct. 20, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice, compared with 29,906 arrests over the same period last year. But while arrests are down overall, there appear to be wide discrepancies in enforcement based on location.
Last year, de Blasio told police to ticket individuals they caught with 25 grams or less of marijuana instead of arresting them. These changes came after district attorneys and activists pushed for drug decriminalization, the Post reported.
Since then, the number of tickets has jumped citywide, and some areas have seen very few arrests. For example, Bronx police in the 45th Precinct in what the Post calls “upscale” Throgs Neck issued 415 tickets for marijuana possession during the first nine months of this year and made just 48 arrests. In Staten Island’s 122nd Precinct, police gave out 258 tickets and cuffed 18 suspects, according to city and state crime data.
On the other hand, the 52nd Precinct in Kingsbridge in the Bronx saw 720 arrests and 168 tickets. In the 113th Precinct in Queens, police made 259 marijuana arrests and ticketed just 79 people.
Through the end of September, police gave out 13,081 tickets in total, and are on pace to issue more than 16,000 by the end of the year. That’s up from the 13,378 summonses that the NYPD gave out last year, and 13,316 in 2013.
Still, arrests outnumber tickets overall, and marijuana use continues to be illegal in New York City. Some experts say these changes have created tough situations for police officers because of the balancing act they must strike between enforcing the law and the mayor’s goal of reducing sentences for small crimes.
“The police are being left in a nowhere land. No matter what they do, they’re subject to criticism,” John Jay College criminal justice professor Eugene O’Donnell told the New York Post. “For cops it’s not really about marijuana; it’s about finding marijuana on the way to finding a gun or more serious narcotics.”
These new tactics in New York come at a time when more and more states are pushing to legalize marijuana within their borders. Four states -- Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington -- plus Washington, D.C., have passed referenda legalizing recreational use marijuana. Beyond those, a slew of other states, including Florida, Michigan, California and Ohio, are making moves to legalize the drug there as well.