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Cops Can’t Arrest You For Smoking Marijuana On Sidewalks, NYPD Says In Post-Legalization Memo



The New York Police Department (NYPD) on Thursday sent a memo to officers updating them on new policies for marijuana after the governor signed a legalization bill into law this week.

Among other changes, police can no longer arrest adults 21 and older for simply using marijuana in places where smoking tobacco is permitted—and that includes “on sidewalks, on front stoops and other public places,” the document states. “As a result, smoking marihuana in any of these locations is not a basis for an approach, stop, summons, arrest or search.”

As prescribed under the law, adults can now possess up to three ounces of cannabis and also gift marijuana to other adults “so long as no compensation is exchanged,” NYPD said. Home cultivation will eventually be legal as well, but not until regulators issued rules allowing it.

The department clarified that nobody, regardless of age, can drive while impaired from cannabis. However, “the smell of marihuana alone no longer establishes probable cause of a crime to search a vehicle,” whether it’s burnt or unburnt.

There are exceptions to the rule if a person driving a car is observed to be impaired and “there is probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of the impairing marihuana (e.g. smell of burnt marihuana or admission of having smoked recently).” Enforcement can also be taken if a person is seen consuming cannabis while driving, regardless of whether they don’t show signs of impairment.

Possession of marijuana by people under 21 is also unlawful, but “under the current state of the law, there is no mechanism for the NYPD to take enforcement action against a person under 21 who possesses 3 ounces or less.”

“In the future, the NYPD may have the ability to issue a civil summons for such violations,” the memo says. “Until that time, possession of 3 ounces or less by a person under 21 cannot be the basis of an approach, stop, summons, juvenile report or arrest. Possession by individuals under 21 of more than 3 ounces is enforceable.”

Another significant policy change concerns people on parole, who are now “permitted to use marihuana unless the terms of their parole specifically prohibit it.”

“This means that [members of service] may not approach, stop or detain a parolee based on their use or possession of lawful amounts of marihuana (3 oz or less),” the memo, which was first reported by CNN, says. “If MOS observe a person known to the Department, whose terms of parole do prohibit possessing or smoking marihuana, MOS should notify the relevant parole officers.”

The department also noted that the state Office of Cannabis Management, which was established under the legalization measure and now has a website that launched on Friday, will be creating regulations allowing adults to cultivate marijuana for personal use.

While it’s not currently legal to grow plants until those rules are created, once they take effect, “individuals 21 or older will be permitted to grow a maximum of 6 plants at their home (3 mature and 3 immature),” and each household “is permitted to have no more than 12 plants regardless of how many individuals 21 or older live in that home.”

Read NYPD’s memo on the marijuana policy changes below: 

NYPD marijuana memo by Marijuana Moment

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Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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