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De Blasio Announces Review Of NYPD's Marijuana Enforcement After Analysis Reveals Racial Disparities

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The NYPD's current marijuana enforcement policy is going up in smoke.

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.

"Today I'm announcing that the NYPD will overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement in the next 30 days," de Blasio said while attending a conference in Washington. "We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement. It's time for those to be a thing of the past in New York City and all over this country."

The NYPD announced a working group to study charges that there is racial profiling when it comes to NYPD enforcement of marijuana offenses, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced that as of Aug. 1, his office will no longer prosecute people who are arrested for smoking or possessing marijuana.

"The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.'s Office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system," said Vance. "The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals. Effective August 1st, my Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. We are in discussions with the Mayor and Police Commissioner to consider limited exceptions to this policy, the goal of which is to radically reduce the criminal prosecution of these offenses."

The New York City Council was in a full-scale revolt over charges of racial profiling when it comes to marijuana arrests.

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.

Instead, they want the NYPD to issue summonses -- until the use of marijuana can be legalized.

"Today we are saying loud and clear that it is unfair, it is not right, and it needs to end right now," Johnson said. "When people's lives are being upended for carrying a small amount of pot, something is wrong with our criminal justice system. When people are being forced to miss work and miss out on time with their family over a low-level marijuana arrest, something is very wrong with our public policy. White, blacks and Hispanics all smoke pot at the same rate, so why are so many more people of color being arrested?"

"This is not what our city is about," Johnson added. "We are needlessly running people through the criminal justice system... the law is being unevenly enforced. These arrests are ruining lives. We are here today to say that we have had enough. I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is not really going to end until marijuana is legalized, taxed and regulated in New York City."

Sharpton said the disparity was especially shocking in a city that proved that the crime rate could still be kept down after eliminating stop and frisk.

"Now the grandchild of stop and frisk is marijuana arrests based on race," Sharpton said. "There is a clear racial pattern, as it was in stop and frisk."

"This is the classic story of a tale of two cities, where it reads if you're black and smoke marijuana you go to jail, and if you are white and smoke marijuana, you still go to Yale," said Councilman Donovan Richards.

CBS2's Marcia Kramer will have more on this story during the CBS2 News at 6 p.m.


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