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Marijuana Legalization: Civil Rights Attorneys Say New York City's New Weed Summons Policy Lacks Balance

First Posted: Nov 20, 2014 04:29 PM EST

Photo : Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Although New Yorkers will no longer be arrested for carrying small amounts of marijuana, civil rights attorneys say that the new policy of handing out summons to violators will further burden the overtaxed court system.

Beginning Wednesday, the New York Police Department began handing out summons for people caught with 25 grams or less of marijuana. Because the drug is still banned by the federal government, first-time offenders will receive a court summons or a $100 ticket, while a $200 ticket will be issued for the second offense, reports Bloomberg News. As a result, those caught in possession of a small amount of pot will not be brought into custody, nor will the incident affect their criminal record. Instead, violators will only need to make an appearance in court.

Many people praised the new NYPD police for giving people summonses rather than arresting them.

However, some attorneys say the policy raises new concerns.

"What we have learned in our case is that the police department gets no feedback whatsoever or, at least, does not communicate any feedback from the summons courts when there are constitutional violations going on with the summonses. And I think that is just going to be exacerbated by the marijuana being shifted to summonses court," civil rights attorney Gerald Cohen of Cohen Fitch LLP told NY1.

Cohen also said that summons court lacks a system of sufficient checks and balances. For example, whehter or not there was "enough probable cause to stop and seize marijuana from someone."

"... so a lot of that stuff is going to be pushed under the table without any oversight," he explained.. 

Meanwhile, civil rights attorney Joshua Fitch said that the courts are handling cases "on an assembly line basis."

"... one right after the other -- almost no consideration. And that is not to speak of the attorney, it is just to speak of the process itself," he said.

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