It is a time of change in New York regarding the status of the marijuana laws. Earlier in July, Governor Cuomo signed a law legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Nearly half of the states now have medical marijuana laws on the books. Additionally, right around the same time, the new district attorney in the Borough of Brooklyn announced that his office is declining to prosecute low-level marijuana possession as a crime.
The Brooklyn head prosecutor pointed out that low-level arrests for marijuana possession by first-time offenders were a significant drain on valuable resources needed to fight more serious forms of crime. He mentioned also that the prosecution takes an “unnecessary toll” on offenders. There has been an ongoing debate about these kinds of arrests due to their prominence in the prior Bloomberg administration.
Several articles published nationally have depicted the enforcement of marijuana laws in New York and elsewhere as being racially discriminatory. The average arrestee is a black or Latino youth; very few middle class white youth are arrested for marijuana possession, according to several studies. This is true despite that white people use the drug as much as minority groups.
The new policy will attempt to dispose of low-level possession cases before they even enter the system, at least for those with little or no prior contact with the system. Thus, cases will be dismissed prior to arraignment. Change is also afoot in the New York Police Department. In Sept. 2011, the police commissioner reminded officers that possession of small amounts does not include fingerprinting and a fine is the maximum penalty.
Furthermore, the current NYPD Commissioner stated that the Brooklyn prosecutor’s policy does not have any impact on the current policy of the NYPD. Its policy is now to refrain from arresting anyone for small amount marijuana possession. The New York Police Department stated that it had worked with the Brooklyn district attorney to coordinate their policies regarding marijuana possession.
Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Brooklyn D.A.???s drug policy follows tide of the country”, Charisma L. Miller, July 18, 2014