Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that the New York Police Department would have a plan within 30 days to slash arrests for marijuana possession, though he did not provide any details about how enforcement would change.
“The N.Y.P.D. will overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement in the next 30 days,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement.”
The mayor’s comments — a turnabout from defending marijuana arrest tactics during his administration — followed the publication of a New York Times story on Sunday documenting the enormous racial gap in marijuana enforcement. Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white people over the last three years.
A senior police official had said in February that the reason for the racial gap was that more residents in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods were calling to complain about marijuana. But the Times article showed that among neighborhoods where people called about marijuana at the same rate, the police almost always made arrests at a higher rate in the area with more black residents.
The mayor’s announcement highlighted the huge discretion afforded the city to enforce the state’s marijuana law as police officials see fit. Mr. de Blasio had previously deferred to the state law prohibiting marijuana use when asked about city policies and said he was not prepared to support legalizing the drug.
Though Mr. de Blasio did not say what kind of arrests he deemed unnecessary, the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, hinted on Monday that he was concerned about the police arresting so many people on marijuana charges who had no previous criminal record.
Mr. O’Neill said that 36 percent of people arrested on marijuana charges last year had no criminal history.