Monday, 21 May, 2018

Manhattan to scrap majority of marijuana prosecutions

Manhattan District Attorney Will No Longer Prosecute Minor Marijuana Cases NYC lawmakers call for end to marijuana arrests
Ellis Copeland | 17 May, 2018, 12:23

The NYPD announced a working group to study charges that there is racial profiling when it comes to NYPD enforcement of marijuana offenses, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced that as of August 1, his office will no longer prosecute people who are arrested for smoking or possessing marijuana.

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. Analysis by The New York Times found that the NYPD's official justification for the racial disparity - that residents in predominantly non-white neighborhoods were more likely to call the police complaining about public weed smoking - could not statistically explain the gap.

And because people of color have been the primary targets in the city for decades, they are also more likely to have been arrested before on marijuana or other minor charges and have a criminal record in the first place.

The Times also debunked the NYPD explanation for the disparities, which the police attribute to more 311 and 911 complaints in certain neighborhoods.

It is part of a wider effort by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NY police department to review how law enforcement deals with low-level marijuana crime.

Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez already declines to prosecute many marijuana cases, and said Tuesday he will expand his policy in the coming weeks. Research has found no good evidence that marijuana arrests are associated with reductions in serious crime in New York City.

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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. They support making pot legal, but say the city should act before that happens.

Under a policy de Blasio put in place in his first year in office, the NYPD now gives summonses when someone is found with marijuana in their possession, but not smoking it. "White, blacks and Hispanics all smoke pot at the same rate, so why are so many more people of color being arrested?" "The number of arrests in that precinct, the 76th Precinct, were 246 arrests".

De Blasio announced that over the next several months, the NYPD will be working to reform its cannabis enforcement policies. They are also calling on the NYPD to no longer arrest people caught smoking marijuana in public, and issue a summons instead. "The NYPD has no interest in arresting New Yorkers for marijuana offenses when those arrests have no impact on public safety".

"The grandchild of stop and frisk is marijuana arrests based on race", Sharpton said. The first from City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that legalizing marijuana could bring the state $3.1 billion, including $1.1 billion for the city.

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

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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