If the police in New York City catch you smoking pot in public after September 1st, 2018, you probably will not be arrested. That’s what the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced in June.

The new rule is that if the New York cops catch you smoking pot in public, you’ll be issued a summons. You’ll have to appear in court, be represented by a drug crimes lawyer in New York, and you’ll face a possible fine of up to $100.

Of course, there are several exceptions to the new policy.

WHAT ARE THE EXCEPTIONS TO THE NEW POT POLICY?

Public pot smokers who have no identification or who have either an outstanding warrant or a history of violent behavior will still be arrested, and anyone whose pot smoking constitutes a clear and present risk to the public’s safety will also be taken into custody.

Still, the new policy is – according to some – revolutionary. “Today is a day where we take a step into the future,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters at a news conference on June 19th.

Despite the “relaxation” of marijuana enforcement, recreational cannabis is still against the law in New York, and the penalties in this state for illegally selling, transporting, or cultivating marijuana remain some of the nation’s harshest.

IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A DRUG CRIME, WHERE CAN YOU TURN?

If you are charged with any drug crime on Long Island or in New York City, you must have a good defense lawyer’s help at once.

You’ll need to speak as swiftly as possible with a criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights and aggressively seek justice on your behalf.

The new pot rules in New York City are the product of an NYPD task force review of the department’s marijuana policy. Advocates for legalization, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and criminal justice experts were consulted by the task force as the new policy was developed.

WHAT’S THE CURRENT PUBLIC OPINION REGARDING MARIJUANA LAWS?

Significantly, the new rules were announced only one day before the release of a new survey conducted by the Center for American Progress and the research firm GBA Strategies. Their survey shows that support for ending cannabis prohibition is at an all-time high.

Sixty-eight percent of the voters in the United States now want to end the prohibition of cannabis, according to the results of that survey.

Already, the legalization of marijuana has spread rapidly across the states in the last decade.

WHERE IS CANNABIS LEGAL?

The medical use of cannabis is now legal, with a doctor’s recommendation, in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.

The recreational use of cannabis is now legal in 9 states plus the District of Columbia, and recreational cannabis has been decriminalized in another 13 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands.

And Canada will legalize marijuana in October of this year. Canadians will be able to consume marijuana recreationally without criminal penalties starting on October 17th.

HAS THE ENFORCEMENT OF POT LAWS TARGETED MINORITIES?

Historically, the state of New York has had a reputation for exceedingly tough drug laws, and the NYPD has been accused of disproportionately targeting minorities for marijuana-related charges.

City Council Member Donovan Richards believes the revised policy is a first step toward ending “decades of targeted enforcement” of marijuana laws that resulted in the denial of college grants and better jobs to many New Yorkers belonging to minorities.

“We have to heal. We have to look for a better path,” Mayor de Blasio told the press conference.

WHAT ARE THE PROSECUTORS AND POLICE COMMISSIONER SAYING?

In Manhattan, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced that his office will not pursue pot smoking or possession charges as of August 1st.

In Brooklyn, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is already declining to prosecute most pot smoking and possession cases.

“We found that in good conscience we could no longer continue to prosecute these cases without any measurable public safety benefit,” District Attorney Gonzalez told reporters.

Speaking alongside Mayor de Blasio at the June 19th news conference, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill claimed that the NYPD “does not target anyone based on race or any other demographic.”

The Commissioner said the department handles a high number of complaints from the public about pot smoke and pot smokers, and he admitted that encounters between police officers and pot smokers can be improved.

“The bottom line is, and I’ve said this probably many times before, the NYPD has no interest in arresting people for marijuana offenses,” O’Neill told reporters.

WHAT’S THE CURRENT LEGAL STATUS OF POT IN NEW YORK STATE?

The new policy is projected to reduce the number of arrests in New York City by about 10,000 a year. Tax dollars will be saved, and police officers will have more time to handle more serious crimes.

In a related development, the day before Mayor de Blasio’s press conference, State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced that the New York State Department of Health will expand the availability of medical marijuana as a substitute for an opioid prescription.

The goal, Zucker said, is to reduce the number of patients who become addicted to opioids after first using the drugs with a doctor’s prescription.

In New York, more than 1,600 registered practitioners may prescribe medical cannabis and over 50,000 patients are approved to purchase it at one of 20 New York dispensaries.

SHOULD THE CITY AND STATE DO MORE?

Many, however, are saying that the city and state need to move faster on marijuana legalization – that the current reforms are timid, halfway measures that don’t address the core issue of racial disparity in the enforcement of pot laws.

This excerpt from a Forbes magazine column expresses the discontent:

“And as long as we are arresting, criminalizing, or seeking to deter people from consuming marijuana … we are necessarily working against those people and areas of society and industry that most deserve our support.”

WHAT IS YOUR RIGHT IF YOU FACE A DRUG CHARGE IN NEW YORK?

And as long as people are arrested on marijuana charges, they are going to need defense lawyers.

If you are charged with possessing or selling pot – or any other drug – on Long Island or anywhere in the New York City area:

1. Get the legal help you need.
2. Contact a criminal defense attorney.
3. You should do it immediately.

If your freedom and your future are at stake, and if you’re facing a drug charge in New York, you have the right to quality legal advice and representation – and you’ll need to exercise that right without delay.