The number of marijuana-related arrests and summonses plummeted in New York City in the first quarter since the state’s legalization law took effect, data released by NYPD shows. While it might not seem surprising to see arrests drop following legalization, the decline was far more significant than those seen in other jurisdictions that have previously ended cannabis prohibition—and it likely has to do with a unique aspect of New York’s marijuana law that allows for public smoking. Arrests for criminal possession of cannabis fell from 163 in the first quarter of 2021 to just eight in the latest quarter. Under legalization, adults 21 and older can possess up to three ounces of marijuana, so those busts are for possession in excess of the limit. Cannabis-related summonses, meanwhile, declined from 3,687 in the first quarter to just eight in April, May and June. Six were for unlawful possession of marijuana and two were for unlawful sales. The state has yet to launch retail sales of recreational cannabis, creating an access barrier. Compare those figures with that of Chicago. In the first year after Illinois’s legalization law took effect and retailers opened up in 2020, there were still nearly 3,000 marijuana-related arrests, disproportionately targeting black people. And while most of those arrests were for possession over the lawful limit and illicit sales, another factor that has likely contributed to the more abrupt drop in arrests and summonses in New York City is that, unlike in other legal states, public consumption of marijuana is legal in places where tobacco use is permitted.

Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment, 08/30/2021 11:45:00

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