Manhattan's District Attorney Cyrus Vance says his office will largely stop prosecuting people for possessing or smoking marijuana starting August 1.
"The dual mission of the Manhattan DA's office is a safer NY and a more equal justice system", Vance said in a press release Tuesday.
"New York's marijuana arrest crusade is causing significant harms to the City's most vulnerable communities and has always been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color", said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
According to a story published on Sunday by the New York Times, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges in the city at eight times the rate of white people over the last three years, despite almost identical usage rates.
Data from the NYPD released in February revealed that 86 percent of people arrested for low-level marijuana possession in 2017 were black or Hispanic, despite being no more likely to smoke pot, while only 9 percent of those arrested were white.
The NYPD claims the majority of marijuana arrests occur in areas where it receives high volumes of 911 and 311 complaints.
"The NYPD will overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement in the next 30 days", he said but did not elaborate.
Low-level marijuana cases are better dealt with summonses than arrests, his successor, Eric Gonzalez, said Thursday.
Marijuana is illegal in NY state except for medical use on a strictly regulated basis, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled last month that the time might be right to consider loosening statewide restrictions.
Joined by Rev. Al Sharpton, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and various council members are demanding that the NYPD stop arresting people for using marijuana.
Bowing to community pressure and anger from the City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday a month-long review of how the NYPD handles marijuana-arrest procedures. However, she recently got into hot bong water for suggesting that affirmative action in the distribution of licenses to sell the drug legally could be a form of reparations for the high number of marijuana arrests in black communities.
"Given New York's embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers".
As the idea of recreational marijuana becoming legal in NY advances, Mayor Bill de Blasio and several lawmakers took a huge step this week when it comes to arrests over the drug that unfairly targets citizens of color.
Many people think that "it's just a little weed" when it comes to marijuana possession and use. "We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement".
De Blasio did not provide any details of what the policy changes might entail.
"The NYPD has no interest in arresting New Yorkers for marijuana offenses when those arrests have no impact on public safety", O'Neill added.
"The grandchild of stop and frisk is marijuana arrests based on race", Sharpton said.
To address the disparity, city leaders are calling for full marijuana legalization on a state level. Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the left in the Democratic primary, has made marijuana legalization a central plank of her campaign platform.