This weekend, New York City will implement new rules that will prevent people from being arrested for cannabis possession—most of the time.
The newly implemented cannabis regulations in NYC are intended to drastically reduce arrests across the Big Apple. By the city's official estimates, the new regs should result in 10,000 fewer arrests over previous years. Instead, people caught with 25 grams or less will be let go with a court summons rather than getting cuffed. And as NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison says, this could go a long way to reducing racialized policing in the city.
"We are going to see a humongous drop in people in communities of color being arrested for marijuana," Harrison said at a press conference on Thursday as reported by PIX11.
Harrison's statement is largely true, but NYC's new regulations won't protect everyone from arrest. People who fail to pay their fines can still find themselves in a prison cell, essential putting the poor at higher risk of incarceration.
"You run the risk of also creating debtors prisons. You will have someone who doesn't pay a fine, all of a sudden have a warrant out for their arrest," said attorney David Holland.
Others say Mayor Bill de Blasio's (D) new policing strategy does not create protection for people with previous run-ins with authorities.
"Unfortunately the mayor's policing and prosecution policy on marijuana still excludes people with prior involvement with the criminal justice system," said Queens Councilman Rory Lancman (D)
NYC's new policies are a step forward, certainly, though not with out its problems. But more progressive cannabis regulations could be on the horizon as Governor Andrew Cuomo and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon - the two most likely winner for the Democratic Party's nomination - both pledge to legalize marijuana across the state if they win the November election.