Will New York City Make Fewer Arrests For Marijuana Possession?


New York is the most aggressive city in the most aggressive state when it comes to marijuana arrests, with nearly 29,000 arrests last yeary, says the Christian Science Monitor. The local police tactic of stop-and-frisk has yielded hundreds of thousands of such low-level possession arrests over the past decade, as out-of-view nickeland dime bags – or even an overstuffed sandwich bag – become exposed during the course of a legal search. This low-level stain is mostly borne by young black and Latino men in urban areas, even as their white counterparts use the drug more frequently. “This unfair application of the laws is having devastating long-term consequences for people of color,” says Gabriel Sayegh, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in New York.

Activists had hoped to see a more immediate change to this disparity with the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had railed against what he sees as unfair application of both the police department's stop-and-frisk tactic on minority communities and the kinds of low-level and future-affecting stains it leaves on the records of many young men. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, is drawing up plans to stop prosecuting such arrests. Last month, a memo from his office to the New York Police Department reasoned that such prosecutions require significant resources in time and effort – even while two-thirds of the cases are dismissed. Manhattan District attorney Cyrus Vance echoed the idea this week, saying police and prosecutors are considering “uniform, better, and fairer” ways to handle marijuana arrests. Both the mayor and Police Commissioner William Bratton have reacted cautiously, saying only they are open to discussions with the prosecutors.

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