Manhattan to scrap majority of marijuana prosecutions

Manhattan District Attorney Will No Longer Prosecute Minor Marijuana Cases

The New York Police Department will overhaul its policies for enforcing pot laws in the next 30 days, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday, adding the city "must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement".

The NYPD claims the majority of marijuana arrests occur in areas where it receives high volumes of 911 and 311 complaints. "It creates a pretext that's quite hard to disprove for officers to approach and search our clients in neighborhoods with a high police presence".

Meanwhile, of the 179 marijuana related calls placed in the 121 Precinct, 94 arrests were made; of the 138 calls in the 122 Precinct, only 12 arrests were made; and of the 61 calls in the 123 Precinct, only 36 arrests were made, according to the data.

"This is not what our city is about", Johnson added. Those arrested on possession charges become a cog in the criminal justice system. They are also calling on the NYPD to no longer arrest people caught smoking marijuana in public, and issue a summons instead.

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 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. Vance's office said the move could reduce Manhattan marijuana prosecutions from about 5,000 per year to about 200 per year - a 96 percent reduction.

The Manhattan DA's Office is set to join its counterparts across the East River in Brooklyn, where the DA's Office has been declining to prosecute similar low-level possession cases since 2014.

Discussions were ongoing to consider "limited exceptions" to the policy.

"Given New York's embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers".

Marijuana is illegal in NY state except for medical use on a strictly regulated basis, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled last month that the time might be right to consider loosening statewide restrictions.

Today's announcement marks the culmination of six months of research and policy analysis, including extensive, in-person interviews with law enforcement officials in jurisdictions where marijuana is no longer criminally prosecuted.

"The NYPD will review our practices to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust at the root of Neighborhood Policing", O'Neil said in a statement. New York City officials and district attorneys made efforts on Tuesday to curb marijuana arrests, which primarily affect black and Hispanic residents.

NY state decriminalized marijuana possession in 1977 and legalized medical marijuana in 2014, but smoking pot in "public view" now remains an arrestable offense in Manhattan and elsewhere.

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