Manhattan law enforcement officials made more than 5,500 arrests for simple marijuana possession and use in 2017. This week, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced that there will be a decrease in prosecuting low-level cases, beginning on August 1.
The Manhattan DA’s office will simply decline to prosecute such cases, which happen to primarily affect New York’s minorities, WGNO News reports. Discussions regarding the new policy have taken place with Mayor De Blasio and the New York City police. New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that over the next 30-days a working group will review “enforcement measures by the department.”
Vance said, “The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s office [and New York City Police Department] is a safer New York and a more equal justice system. The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals.”
Police Commissioner O’Neill agrees that law enforcement officers shouldn’t be arresting people for these low-level offenses if public safety is not in question.
The DA’s new policy allows those who are caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana, or using marijuana, to be given a summons instead of being arrested. This new policy will also decrease costs for the DA’s office.
Vance said, “Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status and community involvement.”
Brooklyn took a similar approach about four years ago. The Brooklyn DA, Eric Gonzalez, said, “Since 2014, the Brooklyn DA’s office has led the way in declining to prosecute marijuana possession cases, resulting in a 75% decline in arrests citywide and confirming that such a policy does not adversely affect public safety.”
Other counties across New York are also adopting similar policies.