As time emerges, it appears that the United States will one day be a cannabis-friendly nation. As it stands, nine states have legalized recreational bud use, while 30 have legalized medicinal weed. Even more locales are decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of cannabis, letting pot-smoking residents breathe a little easier. While we still have a long way to go, there are glimmers of hope. The most recent glimmer came from New York City. The district attorney for the borough of Manhattan announced this week that his office will be scaling back on the prosecution of cannabis possession for personal use.
The biggest of the announcements came from Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr.. Vance released the new policy for his borough on Tuesday (July 31). In a nutshell, according to High Times, the only way you’ll be arrested for weed in Manhattan is if you are caught selling, have bud packaged for individual sales or if you pose a demonstrated threat to the public. Examples of the latter include “a defendant currently under active investigation for a violent offense or other serious crime,” according to Vance’s new guidelines. PIX 11 reports:
Police officers in Manhattan will start issuing criminal summonses instead of making arrests for public marijuana smoking starting Sept. 1. People who are on parole or probation and have open warrants, have violent criminal histories or fail to show identification will still be arrested.
When cannabis-related charges are prosecuted, Vance wrote the “Assistant District Attorneys must state on the record at arraignment that ‘the case falls within one of the limited exceptions to our marijuana policy.’”
Vance predicts that his new policy regarding the cheeba will result in a 96% reduction in cannabis-related cases in the borough, knocking the number of cases from 5,000 annually to around 200 per year. He has seen success in other areas implementing similar policies. In February, Vance deaded the prosecution of subway fare evasion. Six months later, according to the NYPD, prosecution of turnstile jumpers declined more than 96% and transit crime has seen a citywide drop of 4.5%.
Furthermore, Vance’s new rules are good news for those with past cannabis convictions. “In light of the D.A.’s new policy and the decriminalization of marijuana offenses in other states, the D.A.’s Office has been working with public defense organizations and criminal justice stakeholders to proactively seal past marijuana convictions en masse in Fall 2018,” reads Vance’s statement.
All of this came in response to a May New York Times report which found NYC’s Black population (24% of the city’s total population) are eight times more likely to be arrested for low-level weed possession than Whites (43% of the city’s population).
Soon after that report, Vance and Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez vowed to fall back on weed possession arrests. Gonzalez has already set his plan into motion and reports a drastic drop in cannabis cases sent to court. Three hundred forty-nine cannabis cases were tried by his office. By June, all but 29 of those cases had been dropped. You can still get busted for weed possession in BK if you are “posing a threat to public safety, creating a nuisance such as smoking on a bus or subway train or involved in criminal activity.”
Vance took things a step further, calling for the all-out legalization of weed in the city. “…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. I urge New York lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana once and for all,” he said.
If you blow trees and live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, enjoy your newfound freedom from prosecution. Stay woke, though. Though some reports have said that prosecutions would stop in New York City, that is misleading. You can still catch a case in Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx. Stay woke.