De Blasio made dozens of promises to end racially-targeted cannabis enforcement during his campaign and time in office, and has held several press conferences announcing that he was directing the NYPD to lay off low-level pot busts. Throughout the mayor’s terms in office, the NYPD has actually increased its disproportionate enforcement of pot crimes. Between 2014 and 2017, the NYPD arrested over 75,000 people for weed misdemeanors, 87% of whom were people of color.
This spring, the issue reared its ugly head again when NYPD Chief Dermot Shea reported that despite the supposed decriminalization policy, cops busted 17,800 people for weed possession in 2017 – and again, 86% of these were minorities.
That may finally be set to change, at least in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The D.A.’s Office expects the total number of cannabis prosecutions to decrease from around 5,000 per year to less than 200 per year, a 96% decrease. There are still two categories of pot offenses that Vance’s office will continue to prosecute – cases against pot dealers who have 10 or more bags of packaged weed, or anyone who is deemed a public safety threat, such as individuals who are already being investigated for serious crimes.
In Brooklyn, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has also been taking his own steps to shut down prohibition. “This in turn contributes to a lack of trust in law enforcement, which makes us all less safe.”
“Every day I ask our prosecutors to keep Manhattan safe and make our justice system more equal and fair,” Vance said in a statement. “The needless criminalization of pot smoking frustrates this core mission, so we are removing ourselves from the equation. 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. 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. I urge New York lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana once and for all.”
After years of hesitation, New York lawmakers seem to be finally getting around to doing just that.