- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The president of the New York Police Department’s sergeants union spoke out Monday after Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wants authorities to stop arresting people caught smoking marijuana in public.

Sgt. Ed Mullins of the Sergeants Benevolent Association criticized Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, over a planned directive ordering the NYPD to issue summonses instead of arresting people for smoking pot in public, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The approach would put law enforcement “in positions of conflict” because marijuana is illegal and authorities receive complaints about it, he told the newspaper.

“You can’t just circumvent the law,” Sgt. Mullins said. “If you want to not have enforcement of arrests, then you need to change the law.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced last week that it will stop prosecuting low-level marijuana cases starting Aug. 1. Mr. de Blasio’s aides said the mayor will direct the NYPD to issue summonses to people caught smoking weed in public instead of arresting them, the New York Daily News first reported Monday.

“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,” Mr. de Blasio said.

The NYPD hasn’t opposed the mayor’s request, the Wall Street Journal reported, and the department’s commissioner recently established a 30-day working group tasked with reviewing its existing policies for enforcing laws against possession and publicly smoking marijuana.

“The NYPD has no interest in arresting New Yorkers for marijuana offenses when those arrests have no impact on public safety,” Commissioner James O’Neill said last week.

New York decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977, and currently the state is among 29 with laws in place permitting registered patients to use medical cannabis. Public consumption remains illegal, however, and even the state’s medical marijuana law prohibits patients from smoking the plant, whether in public or private.

Formed in 1899, the Sergeants Benevolent Association boasted 12,000 members in 2013, making it the fifth-largest police union in the country. Mr. Mullins has served as its president since 2002.

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