Possession of up to 25 grams of pot in NYC is a civil violation. However, when the pot is not concealed, it becomes a criminal offense. Previously, cops could arrest suspects with public possession even if the pot came into public view due to a search or an officer’s command to empty one's pockets.
City Council members protested the NYPD policy of arresting suspects based on what they believe to be a loophole in the law. Shortly afterward, Commissioner Kelly issued the policy change.
New York City leads the country in marijuana related arrests and 86 percent of those arrested on low level marijuana possession charges are black or Latino.
Since Kelly’s order, misdemeanor pot possession arrests have fallen 13 percent. Nearly 1,200 fewer marijuana-related arrests were made since the directive compared to the same nine-week period in 2010.
While some see this as progress, many marijuana law reform advocates point out that New York is still the cannabis arrest capitol of the world.
According to Gabriel Sayegh, New York’s director of the Drug Policy Alliance, “This isn’t anything to get excited about yet … Until we see these drops reach a much more significant figure, then a drop of 1,100 isn’t much different from arrest variations in other years.”