Manhattan has a new policy that will end the prosecution of cannabis possession and smoking.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced the new policy that decriminalizes marijuana smoking and possession in the borough, except in cases where marijuana poses a significant threat to public safety or when it is being sold.
According to a statement from Vance’s office, the new policy could lessen the number of cannabis-related prosecutions in Manhattan by as much as 96 percent. This number accounts for a drop in cannabis cases, from around 5,000 a year to only around 200 a year.
In his statement, Vance said that their office will be getting rid of a system where smoking a joint can ruin one’s college application, one’s job, and one’s immigration status, among others.
Vance’s office previously commissioned a report on the effects of cannabis legalization in jurisdictions that have already enacted it. The new non-prosecution policy was first announced in May, and it is now putting this policy into effect.
Vance stated that every day, he asks prosecutors to keep the borough safe and to make their justice system fairer and more equal. The unnecessary criminalization of weed smoking, he said, only frustrates this core mission. This is why they are removing it from the equation.
Research favors legalizing recreational cannabis
Vance pointed out that his office performed a research showing virtually no public safety rationale for cannabis arrests or prosecution, whether for smoking pot or for simply possessing it.
The research he cited also notes that New Yorkers consume a large amount of cannabis and that the criminal justice system, which was put in place to police and deter pot consumption, results in the disproportionate number of arrests of minorities.
Vance is also advocating for legalization of recreational cannabis across the state of New York, and he took the opportunity to voice out this advocacy when he announced the new cannabis policy in Manhattan. He urged New York lawmakers to “regulate and legalize cannabis once and for all.”
The research also indicates the benefits of legalizing recreational cannabis, including potential tax revenues generated from an entirely new industry.
Manhattan’s new policy represents another localized cannabis legislative reform in the state of New York. Just last week, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced new numbers that showed a dramatic decrease in cannabis-related prosecution cases from January 2018 to June 2018.
According to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, prosecutors accepted 91 percent fewer cannabis cases since they started with their pilot program. Moreover, cases that were denied prosecution rose 70 percent and arrests dropped 60 percent.
Gonzalez had said that the aggressive enforcement and prosecution of marijuana possession and use “does not keep us safer” and that the clear racial disparities when it comes to arrests have contributed to a sense of an unfair system among many communities. This, he added, contributes to a lack of trust in law enforcement, which in turn makes people less safe.
Things are looking up for New York
New York is moving in the right direction when it comes to cannabis legalization. Recent political developments, like the state’s Democratic Party adopting a pro-legalization position during its May convention, are certainly pointing to it.
Additionally, incumbent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing harsh criticisms from his contender, Cynthia Nixon, who has a progressive, pro-legalization stance. As a result, Cuomo released a report from the New York Health Department earlier this month that concluded that the advantages of legalizing cannabis outweigh the disadvantages.