Manhattan District Attorney Vows To Stop Prosecuting Minor Marijuana Cases


Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr announced on Tuesday that his office will cease to prosecute most minor marijuana cases.

An analysis conducted by Mr. Vance's office found that the the number of marijuana cases prosecuted in Manhattan will plummet from around 5,000 per year to about 200 once the policy change is implemented, or a reduction of about 96 percent.

The District Attorney's Office has invited the City of NY to recommend limited exceptions to this policy grounded in demonstrated public safety concerns before the policy becomes effective in August.

According to a story published on Sunday by the New York Times, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges in the city at eight times the rate of white people over the last three years, despite almost identical usage rates.

The Times reported that blacks in the city are eight times more likely to be arrested on low-level marijuana charges as whites.

"Just take one police precinct-the 76th police precinct, Red Hook in Brooklyn-the number of 311 and 911 calls that came in complaining in 2017 were 88 calls", Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.

Gonzalez said the office is also looking to expand a pilot program that declined to prosecute cases of public smoking of marijuana where a nuisance was not created.

Possession of up to 25 grams (less than an ounce) of marijuana is punishable by a US$100 fine on first offence in NY, rising to US$200 second time around.

Tuesday's announcements suggest that NY โ€• a state now exploring the possibility of legalizing marijuana altogether, as other states have โ€• is starting to more forcefully tackle the disproportionate rates at which black people get arrested for marijuana, even though black and white people use marijuana at nearly the same rates, according to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

On Tuesday NYPD Commissioner James O'Neil announced the department would put together a 30-day working group to review its marijuana enforcement.

We have been taught that marijuana is a "gateway" drug and that early use can predict future problems. In 2015, cops arrested 9% more people for marijuana possession that they did in 2014, despite the promises of decriminalization.

Under a policy de Blasio put in place in his first year in office, the NYPD now gives summonses when someone is found with marijuana in their possession, but not smoking it.

In his speech Tuesday, de Blasio promised changes were coming.

"We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement", de Blasio said at a conference of the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. But at this point, in New York State, it is still illegal.

"The NYPD will overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement within the next 30 days", he said.

"The NYPD does not target people based on race or other demographics", O'Neill said, adding that officer observations and local complaints are among the reasons for arrests.

The state Democratic Party expected to formally back legalization, and Gov. Cuomo, who has opposed it, said moves by surrounding states to legalize have changed the equation.