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Marijuana possession arrests downplayed by 3-term Albany D.A.

Some New York prosecutors are recognizing the futility of continuing to treat marijuana enforcement as a priority. They believe that such a policy simply serves to divert significant resources from battling the growing epidemic of heroin. In the capital region, the Albany County District Attorney recently announced that low-level marijuana possession arrests serve to divert resources away from the deadly heroin plague spreading through the area. The announcement that the county will back-pedal on small marijuana arrests came on the heels of more reports confirming that blacks account for the vast majority of all pot arrests statewide.  

A news report cited Criminal Justice Services statistics for the past six and one-half years that confirm the dramatically high percentage of blacks arrested for low-level marijuana offenses in comparison to their relatively low percentage of the population. In the three counties encompassing Albany, Schenectady and Troy, blacks take up approximately 10 percent of the population while comprising a disproportionately high majority of marijuana arrests. The Albany police chief added his view that whites engage in just as much of this kind of drug activity as do blacks.

The police chiefs in the capital region, however, were less than enthusiastic about the district attorney's new policy. This may be because narcotics enforcement units have thrived economically over the years through asset seizures and other perks given to the police by governments to stimulate drug war activities. Partly because marijuana arrests have been a good source of revenue to law enforcement organizations, police chiefs nationwide have reacted without enthusiasm to the trend of legalization.  

In New York City, police have transitioned to a system of issuing a summons akin to a traffic ticket for a low-level pot  possession matter. Such a procedure does not leave a criminal record or a reportable offense. Mayor De Blasio announced that change while describing how the prosecution of pot has essentially ruined the lives of many with previously unblemished records.  All in all, the trend in New York is now soundly in the camp of decriminalization. Whether the state eliminates all marijuana possession offenses and legalizes the drug is a story that will be told in the not-too-distant future.

Source: timesunion.com, "DA: Minor pot arrests unnecessary", Robert Gavin, Sept. 12, 2015

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