New York City plans to relax the enforcement of marijuana offenses amid claims that current policies disproportionately harm minorities, the Wall Street Journal reports. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the department would form a working group to review policies and procedures for arrests and summonses for marijuana offenses. Some prosecutors’ offices also announced changes. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office won’t prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases as of Aug. 1. “We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s time for those to be a thing of the past in New York City and all over this country.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said his office had already decreased its prosecution of marijuana cases and would work toward prosecuting only those few cases that included public-safety concerns. Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark asked the NYPD to issue summonses instead of arresting people for public use and possession. Police officials have previously said responding to marijuana complaints can sometimes lead to the arrests of violent criminals. City Council member Fernando Cabrera said Monday he wants police to respond to each complaint they receive for marijuana in his Bronx district because it is a common concern among his constituents. While recreational use and open possession of marijuana is against the law, de Blasio directed the police to issue summonses, which result in a $100 fine and require the person to attend summons court, to most caught possessing marijuana. Arrests for marijuana offenses are down 32 percent over the last four years while the issuance of summonses is up 57 percent.