Amid criticism of the way New York City police officers enforce marijuana laws, Commissioner Raymond Kelly reiterated that officers are not to arrest people who have small amounts of marijuana unless it is in public view, says the New York Times. Since the 1970s, possessing small amounts of pot in public view has been a misdemeanor.
More than 50,000 people were arrested last year on marijuana possession charges last year, a vast majority of them minorities. Critics say officers routinely tell suspects to empty their pockets and if marijuana is displayed, arrest them for having the drugs in public view. Critics said the commissioner's restatement of policy, first reported by WNYC, represented a major change of policy. “This will make a tremendous difference because tens of thousands of young people — predominately young people of color — will not be run through the system as criminals,” said Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society. Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance said the commissioner’s memo “appears to represent a major step forward.”