Starting Aug. 1, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. will no longer prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases, his office announced Tuesday. The move comes after a six-month review of jurisdictions where marijuana is no longer criminally prosecuted, and one analysis by his office estimated there could be a 96 percent reduction in prosecutions.
“The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s Office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” Vance said. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals.”
Vance said his office is discussing limited exceptions to the policy with Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill, “the goal of which is to radically reduce the criminal prosecution of these offenses.”
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It’s a move that Vance’s Brooklyn counterpart, Eric Gonzalez, backs.
“I believe that low-level marijuana cases should be responded to with summonses rather than arrests,” he said in a statement. “Since 2014, the Brooklyn DA’s Office has led the way in declining to prosecute marijuana possession cases, resulting in a 75 percent decline in arrests citywide and confirming that such policy does not adversely affect public policy.”
Gonzalez added that the office began a pilot program three months ago that declined to prosecute “some instances” of smoking marijuana in public “where a public nuisance was not created.” He, too, will work with the mayor and NYPD to identify a small number of exceptions in the near future.
DA Vance’s announcement comes on the heels of a report released earlier Tuesday by city Comptroller Scott Stringer, which estimates that the adult market for legal marijuana in New York state could be $3.1 billion, including approximately $1.1 billion from city usage alone.
But Stringer was quick to say in his report that legalizing adult-use of marijuana was about more than raking in a ton of cash; in fact, it aligns with Vance’s decision to stop prosecuting marijuana possession and smoking cases in Manhattan.
“This is not just about dollars — it’s about justice,” Stringer said. “Not only is marijuana an untapped revenue source for the city and the state, but the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic communities for far too long.”