Legal Aid Society Supports the Decriminalization of Marijuana, Reported by Patch

Posted on May 24, 2019

NYPD Won’t Alter Pot Arrest Policy Despite Race Disparity Concern

Originally Published in Patch on May 22, 2019
Written by Noah Manskar

NYPD cops in September started giving out criminal summonses to New Yorkers caught smoking pot in public instead of arresting them. But the grace doesn’t apply to several groups of people who have had past entanglements with the criminal system, such as those on parole or probation or with active arrest warrants.

While the shift has corresponded with a sharp drop in arrests, advocates worry the exemptions have contributed to a racial disparity in who gets cuffed for using a drug that’s legal in several states.

Legal Aid Society attorney Anthony Posada said the exemptions in the current policy are “another pathway to continue criminalizing” communities of color. But he said a deeper solution would be to legalize marijuana altogether, a step that officials are considering at the state level.

“Nobody ever said that legalization is going to cure racism in policing,” said Posada, who is the supervising attorney of Legal Aid’s Community Justice Unit. “… What it does is that it takes away at least one of those tools to continue making arrests and funneling people through the criminal justice system.”

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