The New York Police Department, which has been arresting tens of thousands of people a year for low-level marijuana possession, is poised to stop making such arrests and to issue tickets instead, reports the New York Times. People found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued court summonses and be allowed to continue on their way without being handcuffed and taken to station houses for fingerprinting. The change would remake the way the police handle the most common drug offenses and would represent Mayor Bill de Blasio's most significant effort since taking office to address the enduring effects of the department's stop-and-frisk practices.
Curbing arrests for small-scale marijuana possession has become a cause for criminal justice reform advocates. The new Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth Thompson, said he would stop prosecuting such cases. His announcement did not go over well with de Blasio and Police Commissioner, William Bratton, who vowed to continue making low-level marijuana arrests. Now, the de Blasio administration is saying that such small-scale possession merits different treatment. City Hall is moving to retake control of a politically potent issue that has resonance in the black and Latino communities, where a vast majority of small-scale marijuana arrests have taken place. In the first eight months of the year, blacks and Hispanics represented 86 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in the city, said Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College.