Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. dropped [press release] 3,042 marijuana charges on Tuesday, saying it is “one small step toward addressing the decades of racial disparities behind the enforcement of marijuana in New York City.”
The charges dropped were misdemeanor possession and smoking charges dating back to as early as 1978. Charges that showed chances of “sale or demonstrated risk to public safety” were not dropped, since those acts still carry criminal charges in New York. The decision stems mostly from an attempt to rectify the disproportionately that communities of color experience:
It is our experience that outstanding warrants for these low-level cases drive law enforcement and our communities apart: New Yorkers with warrants face unnecessary loss of employment, housing, and immigration consequences, and because they fear that they will be arrested for an open warrant, they sometimes are reluctant to collaborate with the NYPD and District Attorneys. That undermines public safety.
Notably, New York has not prosecuted most marijuana possession and smoking cases since August 1. In fact, Vance stated that he would dismiss any similar charge that walked into his office today.
Many governments nationwide have moved to decriminalize medicinal and recreational marijuana use. The California Legislature [official website] in August approved a bill that will allow [JURIST report] California students to use medical marijuana on school campuses. In February Virginia’s Senate approved [JURIST report] legislation allowing doctors to prescribe oils containing mostly non-psychoactive cannabis extracts, making Virginia part of the majority of states to approve medical marijuana.