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NYC mayor tells cops to stop arresting public pot smokers as city prepares for legalization

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered police to stop making arrests for public pot smoking. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday ordered the NYPD to stop arresting public pot smokers as part of his plan to prepare for the legalization of recreational marijuana, the New York Daily News reported.

What's the story?

De Blasio has long opposed marijuana legalization but the move is part of his promise last week to "overhaul and reform" enforcement in preparation for what appears to be an inevitable policy shift.

"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," de Blasio told the Daily News. "While I still have real concerns we must work through, it isn't difficult to see where this is headed, and any responsible policymaker must prepare for that eventuality. My focus now will be helping to craft the critical regulatory framework that must come before legalization is realized."

Also the mayor plans to form a task force that will address the issues that come with the full-on legalization of the drug.

Early in his first term, de Blasio told cops to write summonses instead of making arrests for marijuana possession of 25 grams and under, except for those who smoked in public.

Now, the mayor has directed police to only write summonses for public smoking, as well.

The new guidelines are meant to reduce the racial disparity of those arrested for marijuana, following a report in the New York Times, which claimed black people are eight times more likely to be arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges than white, non-Hispanic New Yorkers over the past three years.

And in Manhattan, black people are arrested 15 times more often than whites, the outlet reported.

What does the governor say?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) previously opposed legalization but recently changed his position on the issue because of surrounding states' availability of the drug.

Cuomo announced his position shift just one day after his Democratic primary rival Cynthia Nixon (D) said, "We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity."

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