NYPD police can no longer arrest people for smoking weeds in the street
For the past decade, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has come under fire for enforcing marijuana prohibition laws almost entirely against people of color, while white people have been able to puff up in peace. New York officials tried to solve the problem with decriminalization measures, but despite those efforts, the percentage of minorities arrested for petty crimes continued to rise, eventually rising to 94 percent in 2020.
But now that New York State has finally ended its war on weeds, those days are over. As of last Wednesday, it is legal for every adult in the state to carry and use up to three ounces of flowers or 24 grams of concentrate. And now that this pot is legal, every law enforcement agency in the state needs to change their behavior.
On Thursday, NYPD officials sent all officers a memo explaining the new rules for cannabis enforcement. The new law allows adults to smoke weeds wherever tobacco smoking is legal. The memo advises police not to approach, stop, summon, arrest or search anyone who smokes weed “on sidewalks, on trestles and in other public places,” reports Marihuana Moment.
Gone are the days when the police used the aroma of cannabis as an excuse to search or disrupt traffic. Officials cannot stop and search a person because they smell of weeds, nor can they conduct vehicle searches based on weed smell. “The smell of marijuana alone is no longer a likely cause for a crime to search a vehicle,” the memo clearly states.
Of course, driving while stoned remains prohibited and the police have leeway to investigate anyone they think may drive under the influence. If the police see that a driver is smoking weeds or there are other signs of weed poisoning, they have the right to do a sobriety test. However, the memo states that the trunk of the vehicle “may not be searched unless the officer develops a separate probable reason to believe that the trunk contains evidence of a crime,” reports CNN.
Licensed retail sales are not expected to begin until December 2022, and all sales of cannabis will remain illegal until then. However, it is legal to give up to 3 ounces of weed to another person for free. Therefore, police officers are advised not to arrest anyone for selling weed unless they actually see cash changing hands.
The memo also states that anyone currently on parole can legally smoke weed unless the terms of their parole specifically prohibit it.
The new cannabis law only applies to adults over the age of 21. As indicated in the NYPD memo, there are no longer any rules for enforcing the use of underage pots. Currently, this means that police officers cannot beat up anyone under the age of 21 for carrying weeds or smoking in public.
“In the future, the NYPD may have the ability to issue a civil subpoena for such violations,” the memo says, according to Marihuana Moment. “Until then, possession of 3 ounces or less by a person under the age of 21 cannot constitute the basis for an approach, stop, subpoena, youth report, or arrest. Possession of more than 3 ounces by anyone under the age of 21 is enforceable. “