The city of New York has been ground zero for a disproportionate amount of arrests related to marijuana possession as it relates to people of color for years, but now a new policy could change that. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has introduced a plan to decriminalize marijuana significantly, backing a recent pledge by Mayor Bill de Blasio for police to stop arresting folks for smoking weed in public.
The Hill reports:
The New York district attorney’s office will no longer prosecute the cases as of Wednesday, except in cases where marijuana is being sold or if an individual involved “poses a significant threat to public safety.”
The new policy is expected to reduce the number of prosecutions for marijuana in Manhattan by 96 percent, from about 5,000 cases annually to fewer than 200 each year, according to a release.
Vance said in a statement that the “needless criminalization of pot smoking” prevents prosecutors from being able to carry out their duties, and urged lawmakers to legalize marijuana fully.
“Our research has found virtually no public safety rationale for the ongoing arrest and prosecution of marijuana smoking, and no moral justification for the intolerable racial disparities that underlie enforcement,” Vance said.
“Tomorrow, our Office will exit a system wherein smoking a joint can ruin your job, your college application, or your immigration status, but our advocacy will continue,” he continued.
New York has long been criticized for its Rockefeller drug laws for the extreme legal responses to individuals possessing small to moderate amounts of narcotics. The NYPD has also stated openly that it intends to relax its approach to marijuana arrests, maintaining a focus on those who are a potential danger to society or immersed in sales.