New Yorkers are now required to report marijuana smoking to 911 after the state government and the New York Police Department recently classified it as an emergency. In New York, the residents have two options when they encounter a situation that warrants the attention of authorities. For an emergency, they call 911 while non-emergency issues report to 311.
Amid the raging Coronavirus pandemic, NYC.gov and the New York Police Department have identified marijuana smoking as an emergency that requires the attention of 911. However, this instruction could help ensure that racial disparity in cannabis-related arrests continues.
Besides, it might promote the risk of non-violent crimes degenerating into sticky and dangerous confrontations. It’s another example of how the state uses – and perhaps misuses – police resources in New York City. Tom Angell of Cannabis Newswire recently found out this revelation and posted it on his twitter page.
For a long time, New York City remained the most unfriendly city in the US for marijuana users. As the ACLU earlier reported, marijuana possession stood out as the most frequent reason for arrest in New York. The state led the country in marijuana arrests with busts twice the national average.
All the same, that was expected to have ended a year ago when cannabis possession was decriminalized in New York in August 2019. After the decriminalization of marijuana possession, which came as a consolation prize after a failed legalization effort, anyone with two ounces or less of marijuana would face no arrest or incarceration.
Cannabis smoking still a crime in New York
The instruction to call 911 shows that smoking cannabis remains a crime in the state. Anyone found smoking marijuana outside can be arrested. Besides, if the person found smoking or possessing marijuana has an outstanding warrant or is on parole, the person might end up in the Rikers Island city jail, referred to as the COVID-19 factory.
The instruction to report cannabis smoking as a criminal emergency has elicited many reactions. According to Janos Marton who is a lawyer and deincarceration activist, the order is a bit out of place.
“The smell of marijuana alone is not a good use of emergency resources. First, marijuana should be legal. Second, just as we should be investing in community members to de-escalate challenges like social distancing and wearing of masks (without weapons), we should have those people respond to marijuana smoking that disturbs people. Let’s keep 911 for dealing with real emergencies,” Marton said.