Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Manhattan DA Says He'll Stop Prosecuting Pot Possession

Manhattan District Attorney Will No Longer Prosecute Minor Marijuana Cases NYC lawmakers call for end to marijuana arrests
Kenny Thornton | 17 May, 2018, 12:22

Manhattan's District Attorney Cyrus Vance says his office will largely stop prosecuting people for possessing or smoking marijuana starting August 1.

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. "The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals", Vance said in a prepared statement.

A New York Times piece published last weekend revealed black people are arrested roughly fifteen times more than white people under marijuana charges in Manhattan. The report said the difference can not entirely be attributed to more residents in predominantly black neighborhoods calling police to complain about marijuana.

In a speech to progressive groups in Washington, D.C., de Blasio said the NYPD would "overhaul and reform" its marijuana policies in the next 30 days, but did not provide details.

Gonzalez said Brooklyn started declining to prosecute some instances of smoking marijuana in public when a nuisance was not created as part of a pilot program created three months ago.

"At the same time, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the state of NY, and ultimately, this is an issue that should be decided in a more thoughtful and comprehensive way by the state Legislature, and not as a rushed reaction to the top news headlines of the day".

O'Neill's announcement comes a day after he said the department is "addressing" a disparity in marijuana-related enforcement affecting minority New Yorkers during a City Council budget hearing.

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The D.A.'s Office today released a report "Marijuana, Fairness and Public Safety: A Report on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in the United States" publicizing its findings, which helped to inform the Office's new policy. They support making pot legal, but say the city should act before that happens. Although marijuana arrests dropped during de Blasio's tenure, there were still over 17,000 arrests in 2017.

On Monday, Council Member Donovan Richards, the public safety committee chairman, pressed NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill on the topic.

As the idea of recreational marijuana becoming legal in NY advances, Mayor Bill de Blasio and several lawmakers took a huge step this week when it comes to arrests over the drug that unfairly targets citizens of color. "We need an honest assessment about why they exist, and balance it in the context of the public safety needs of all communities".

Federal statistics show similar rates of marijuana use among whites, blacks and Hispanics, but about 87 percent of people arrested for pot in New York City are black or Hispanic. But at this point, in New York State, it is still illegal.

More and more Democrats in NY have thrown their support behind full legalization of marijuana, though de Blasio still opposes it.

"The grandchild of stop-and-frisk is marijuana arrests based on race", he said.

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.

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