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December 11, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: New weed policy needs a fix — no way to easily track stats yet, NYPD admits

September 28, 2018
NYPD isn’t able to track how many people are be ticketed for smoking marijuana. (iStockphoto)

The NYPD can’t electronically track how many people get hit with summonses for smoking marijuana in public, the Daily News has learned.

The snafu comes at a time when the department has acknowledged the racial disparity that exists in marijuana enforcement — blacks and Hispanics comprise about 85% of those charged with pot offenses, even though whites use the drug just as much, if not more, according to several studies — and some City Council members have been critical of how police have moved to address the issue.




A few months ago, the city trumpeted that starting Sept. 1 those caught lighting up a joint would walk away with a summons instead of an automatic arrest.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the new policy: Police have to go through each summons by hand to track data on the summons.

That’s because smoking pot is a misdemeanor, for which a summons cannot be issued. In such cases now, police said, the offender instead gets a summons for unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation for which you can be fined up to $100.

That means those cited for smoking are grouped into the same category as those cited just for possession, such as having it in their pockets.

From Sept. 1 through Sunday, police issued 794 possession summonses, of which 179 — 23% — were for actual smoking.

The NYPD knows this because cops were asked to go through each summons by hand — a time-consuming process that will only take longer as the numbers pile up.

The department also said it started its new policy well aware there would be a problem and that it will soon have in place a way to differentiate between smoking and possession summonses.

“The NYPD was aware of this technical issue, but proceeded in order to avoid delaying implementation of the new policy,” said Deputy Commissioner Phil Walzak, the NYPD’s top spokesman. “Commanders manually analyze summonses issued in their command to keep on top of current conditions and trends.

“New automated reporting processes are being developed by the NYPD to differentiate between possession and smoking summonses and to account for demographic data at the citywide level.”

The number of people arrested for marijuana has dropped sharply — from 53,500 in 2010 to 19,100 in 2017. Marijuana summonses, meanwhile, have jumped from 12,000 in 2013 to 20,500 in 2017.

The summons spike coincided with a move four years ago to stop arresting those in possession of less than 25 grams of pot. Unless there were extenuating circumstances, including that the offender was wanted for a crime or on parole or probation, a summons would be issued.

The same exceptions apply to those now given summonses for smoking.







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