Manhattan Ends Prosecutions for Marijuana Possession

Starting Aug. 1 Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. will no longer prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases his office announced

Manhattan Ends Prosecutions for Marijuana Possession

A major investigation by the New York Times found continued racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and arrests in every neighborhood in the City.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office, which in 2014 chose to stop prosecuting many low-level marijuana cases, is considering expanding its policy so that more people now subject to arrest on marijuana charges, including those who smoke outside without creating a public nuisance, would not be prosecuted, one official familiar with the discussions said.

Gonzalez added that the office began a pilot program three months ago that declined to prosecute "some instances" of smoking marijuana in public "where a public nuisance was not created".

The DA's office said it might make "limited" exceptions to the new policy if New York City officials voice public safety concerns. "The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals". "We are in discussions with the mayor and police commissioner to consider limited exceptions to this policy, the goal of which is to radically reduce the criminal prosecution of these offenses".

"I believe that low-level marijuana cases should be responded to with summonses rather than arrests", he said in a statement.

Johnson said a council analysis showed that in a predominantly black and Hispanic precinct in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the city received 88 complaints of public pot smoking and police made 246 arrests. "We need an honest assessment about why they exist". The NYPD does this in cases where possession is the most serious charge a person would face, O'Neill said. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: "Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people".

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"Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status, and community involvement", the DA said.

CNN reached out to the offices of district attorneys in other boroughs to see whether they are considering similar measures.

New York City plans to relax the enforcement of marijuana offenses in the wake of claims that current policies disproportionately harm minorities.

Queens County wants to wait to comment until after the 30-day NYPD working group analysis. Meanwhile, more and more states are moving toward legalization, and President Donald Trump recently endorsed allowing states to decide how to regulate the drug, which is illegal under federal law. Some states, like NY, have decriminalized marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis.

The New York City Council was in a full-scale revolt over charges of racial profiling when it comes to marijuana arrests.

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