As promised, the Brooklyn DA's office has effectively decriminalized marijuana possession in the borough. “This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders," DA Ken Thompson said in a release.
For those who are caught with amounts of marijuana under 25 grams, cases will be dismissed prior to arraignment, which is what usually happens with low-level marijuana possession anyway. According to the release, of the more than 8,500 cases in Kings County last year in which the top charge was class B misdemeanor marijuana possession, more than two-thirds were dismissed because the defendant accepted an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal [ACD].
"The processing of these cases exacts a cost on the criminal justice system and takes a toll on the individual," Thompson said. "Given that these cases are ultimately—and predictably—dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit."
In a memo obtained by the Times, Thompson explicitly references the racial disparity seen in the soaring number of marijuana arrests in New York City:
Given the vast number of community members who, regardless of race, have engaged at some point in their lives in this non-violent conduct with impunity, the imposition of a conviction for such conduct may perpetuate the public's perception that the criminal justice system as a whole and law enforcement in particular is neither colorblind, nor class-blind.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told Capital New York that Thompson's policy "will not result in any changes" on the part of his officers.
According to the Times, those arrested for low-level marijuana possession will still be taken to the precinct and processed at central booking. The new policy does not affect violent offenders, gang members, those with open warrants, or those smoking marijuana in public, "particularly around children, such as a park, playground, bus, subway or school yard," the release states; all of these provisions were sought by the NYPD. Those under 18 will be referred to a "diversion program" for counseling.
The de Blasio administration continues to arrest a large number of New Yorkers for marijuana possession, more than the Giuliani administration and so far slightly more than the final year of Bloomberg's tenure.
Possession of under 25 grams of marijuana out of public view remains a $100 violation.