Daily News: Pot Arrests Continue in NYC Despite City Hall Decriminalization Push: Lawyers
MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017

Legal Aid clients are still being arrested for marijuana possession despite decriminalization efforts from City Hall, writes the Daily News.




NY Daily News
Pot Arrests Continue in NYC Despite City Hall Decriminalization Push: Lawyers
By Shayna Jacobs
August 21, 2017

Stoners still face a significant risk of arrest in New York City — in spite of a City Hall push to decriminalize small amounts of pot, according to the Legal Aid Society.

Legal Aid lawyers handled 5,934 pot cases involving misdemeanor charges and violations from Jan. 1 to Aug. 11, down only slightly from the 6,180 recorded during the corresponding span last year, according to records kept by the organization.

In July — the month with the highest number of Legal Aid-handled marijuana cases — lawyers dealt with 867 pot busts. February saw the fewest, with 644.

“At a minimum, what these numbers are saying is that despite some good effort to reduce the number of people who have marijuana charges coming through the criminal justice system . . . we still have a bit of a way to go,” said Tina Luongo, who runs Legal Aid’s criminal practice.

Advocates say the spirit of the 2014 policy shift was to drastically reduce the number of black and Latino New Yorkers who become saddled with open cases that can keep them from being productive members of society.

Austin Finan, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio, said the new pot policy is in full swing and the numbers are heading in the right direction, down 37% since 2013.

“This administration has led a dramatic shift away from unnecessary arrests for low-level marijuana offenses in favor of summonses,” Finan said.

Citywide, there were 9,968 arrests for marijuana possession through July 9, down 5% from the 10,498 in the corresponding period last year, according to NYPD records.

But Luongo said de Blasio’s policy is not always implemented consistently, and predominantly minority neighborhoods are hardest hit.

“The arrests are not happening in the neighborhoods equally,” Luongo said.

In general, people stopped with fewer than 25 grams in their possession — but not in plain view — are supposed to be given only a summons.

“One of the things we consistently see — still — is a cop will stop you, demand you take it out of your pocket,” Luongo said.

“You show it, and the police officer will sometimes still write that up as (a) misdemeanor as opposed to a violation.”



This article originally appeared in NY Daily News.