New York City to Stop Pursuing Many Marijuana Offenses, Officials Say

Henrietta Strickland
May 16, 2018

The findings follow an article published Sunday at the New York Times that found that over a period of three years, black people in New York were eight times more likely to face arrest for low-level marijuana charges. "The number of arrests in that precinct, the 76th Precinct, were 246 arrests".

The new policy will be rolled out from August 1 and could see marijuana prosecutions fall 96 per cent from around 5,000 to 200 a year in Manhattan, the office of district attorney Cyrus Vance announced Tuesday.

Defense lawyers have also expressed concern that giving prosecutors discretion to decide what constitutes a public nuisance would let them continue prosecuting many cases.

"The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.'s Office is a safer NY and a more equal justice system", said Vance. Research has found no good evidence that marijuana arrests are associated with reductions in serious crime in New York City. "Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade", Frederique continued.

O'Neill said NYPD officers should not make arrests that don't impact public safety. "We need to start protecting the common, regular people".

Under the DA's office new policy, people who violate the law would be issued summonses. They cited a council analysis of police statistics that found 86 percent of people arrested for public pot smoking in the most populous USA city were black or Hispanic. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: "Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people". As a result, large numbers of New Yorkers become further alienated from law enforcement and removed from community participation at an enormous cost to the criminal justice system, for virtually no punitive, rehabilitative or deterrent goal.

Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status, and community involvement. There are often no punitive, rehabilitative or deterrent purposes in these cases, the DA said. Brooklyn already has a similar policy.

Vance said his office is discussing limited exceptions to the policy with Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill, "the goal of which is to radically reduce the criminal prosecution of these offenses".

I'm announcing today that the NYPD will overhaul its marijuana enforcement policies in the next 30 days. "We will await the results of that review", a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.

NY is one of 29 U.S. states to have legalised marijuana for medical use to help patients with cancer, HIV, Parkinson's, epilepsy and other conditions.

The change comes as New York State moves toward potentially legalizing marijuana.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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