New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new marijuana policy was met with a backlash from the Manhattan district attorney and other critics, who said the change wouldn’t do enough to diminish racial disparities among those who face punishment for the low-level crime, the Wall Street Journal reports. De Blasio and New York Police Department officials announced Tuesday that instead of arresting people caught smoking marijuana in public, officers would issue summonses. The new policy would cover everyone except people with criminal warrants, those on parole or probation, people who have committed a violent crime within three years or those whose identity police can’t verify. The change could reduce overall marijuana arrests in New York City by about 10,000 a year.
The new policy comes after statistics show that 87 percent of people arrested in 2017 for smoking marijuana were black or Hispanic, despite studies that show all races smoke marijuana at about the same rate. It also comes a day after study commissioned by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended the state allow adults to consume marijuana legally. “By excluding …racially disparate populations such as New Yorkers with prior arrests, people on probation, and parolees working to re-enter their communities, this policy could have the unintended consequence of further solidifying the racial inequities in marijuana enforcement,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Vance had said that his office would decline to prosecute marijuana cases beginning Aug. 1, joining the Brooklyn district attorney in reducing marijuana prosecutions. Monifa Bandele of Communities United for Police Reform, an advocacy group, said “all this plan will do is push racial disparities to the summons system.”