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Major changes to pot prosecution policy

Major changes to pot prosecution policy

The district attorney's office in Manhattan, New York City's largest borough, will no longer file charges against defendants in most marijuana possession and smoking cases, the office announced on Tuesday.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that starting on August 1, he will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases.

"New York's marijuana arrest crusade is causing significant harms to the City's most vulnerable communities and has always been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color", said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Times reported that blacks in the city are eight times more likely to be arrested on low-level marijuana charges as whites. At a hearing on the matter in February of this year, NYPD Chief Dermot Shea claimed that the reason for this disproportionate enforcement was that police were simply making more arrests in neighborhoods where they received the most 911 or 311 calls reporting public weed consumption. After recently saying he was "not there yet" on legalizing recreational marijuana, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio directed the NYPD to present a proposal within 30 days to decrease marijuana arrests and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said that the department would review marijuana enforcement policies.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez also announced Tuesday he would expand his office's efforts to not prosecute marijuana cases.

"The people that are going to have records are folks that live in neighborhoods that are overpoliced and targeted for enforcement", Hechinger told the New York Times.

In the heavily minority and immigrant populated 120th Precinct, of the 287 calls made to 311 and 911 related to marijuana the same number of arrests were made, according to data provided by the NYPD to the City Council.

We have been taught that marijuana is a "gateway" drug and that early use can predict future problems.

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The report found that law enforcement targets black and Hispanics at higher rates for low-level marijuana offenses than whites.

As the idea of recreational marijuana becoming legal in NY advances, Mayor Bill de Blasio and several lawmakers took a huge step this week when it comes to arrests over the drug that unfairly targets citizens of color.

In his speech Tuesday, de Blasio promised changes were coming.

Is it time to change the policy on marijuana?

At a press conference at City Hall Tuesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Rev. Al Sharpton also slammed the NYPD for its racial bias in arrests. In 2017, he issued one of the most lenient marijuana policies in New York State, under which individuals accused for the first time of smoking in public receive a 90-day Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal ("ACD"), and those accused for the second time receive a 180-day ACD. But at this point, in New York State, it is still illegal.

To address the disparity, city leaders are calling for full marijuana legalization on a state level.

"Now the grandchild of stop-and-frisk is marijuana arrests based on race", Sharpton said.