NEW YORK — Lighting up a joint in the Big Apple could lighten some wallets, but won’t lead to handcuffs in most cases once New York City’s revamped marijuana enforcement policy goes into effect on Labor Day weekend.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that police officers will shift to issuing criminal summonses for public marijuana smoking starting Sept. 1 – a move he estimates will eliminate at least 10,000 arrests a year. The Democrat ordered the overhaul last month after a report showed persistent racial gaps in marijuana arrests.

“Nobody’s destiny should hinge on a minor nonviolent offense,” said de Blasio.

Officers will still arrest suspected smokers if they are on parole or probation, have an open warrant, a violent criminal history or fail to show identification, Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison said. Getting high while driving also will lead to arrest, he said.

Kassandra Frederique, the New York state director of Drug Policy Alliance, said the exceptions signaled authorities still feel “certain groups of people deserve to be criminalized” and that the city had “found a way to skirt the issue on racial disparities.”

Frederique called the summonses, which require a trip to court and payment of a $100 fine, a “back door into the criminal justice system” because people who miss their court date could wind up with a warrant out for their arrest.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez supported the policy change and said he was working on a process to seal the records of thousands of people with marijuana-related convictions.

“We must bring a sense of fairness to the past at the same time we implement these new enforcement policies,” said Gonzalez. “We are moving toward a reality in which marijuana will no longer serve as an entryway to our criminal justice system, with all the attendant collateral consequences.”

New York set out to change its marijuana enforcement policy in May after The New York Times reported blacks in the city were eight times more likely to be arrested on low-level marijuana charges as whites.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.