De Blasio tells NYPD not to make arrests for pot smoking in public

- With an eye to a possible future where marijuana is legal in New York State, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants the New York Police Department to stop arresting people for smoking pot in public and instead hand out summonses.

"With marijuana legalization likely to occur in our state in the near future, it is critical our city plans for the public safety, health, and financial consequences involved," de Blasio said in a statement released Sunday. "While I still have real concerns we must work through.... my focus now will be helping to craft the critical regulatory framework that must come before legalization is realized."

RELATED: DOZENS OF SYNTHETIC POT 'ZOMBIES' HOSPITALIZED

The mayor's remarks came less than a week after he directed the police department to overhaul its marijuana enforcement policies in the next 30 days.

Last week, members of the New York City Council and the Rev. Al Sharpton held a news conference demanding an end to the racial gap in marijuana enforcement and the legalization of marijuana. A City Council study found that in 2017, 86 percent of people arrested for low-level marijuana possession were black and Hispanic and less than 9 percent were white.

Marijuana arrests are down so far this year, according to the NYPD. But critics contend the racial disparity prevails. The NYPD Working Group is expected to have recommendations for the mayor by the middle of June.

"The Working Group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns," an NYPD spokesperson said.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. had previously said his office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases starting Aug. 1.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report estimating the potential market for marijuana in New York State at roughly $3.1 billion, including approximately $1.1 billion in New York City.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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