As he navigates the controversy surrounding the sex and abuse scandals involving Harvey Weinstein and former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Vance announced Tuesday that starting August 1 he will no longer prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases unless they demonstrate public safety concerns.
An analysis conducted by Mr. Vance's office found that the the number of marijuana cases prosecuted in Manhattan will plummet from around 5,000 per year to about 200 once the policy change is implemented, or a reduction of about 96 percent.
"In the coming weeks, we will work with the Police Department and the mayor to identify the very small number of exceptions that raise public safety concerns, and any case that does not fall within these exceptions will no longer be prosecuted", he added. "The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals".
The NYPD arrested almost 17,000 people for low-level marijuana offenses in 2017, and about roughly 86 percent of those were either black or Hispanic, according to data from the New York State's Division of Criminal Justice Services. The report said the difference can not entirely be attributed to more residents in predominantly black neighborhoods calling police to complain about marijuana.
The move by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. came the same day that Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that the city's police department would overhaul its marijuana enforcement policies in the next 30 days.
Gonzalez said Brooklyn started declining to prosecute some instances of smoking marijuana in public when a nuisance was not created as part of a pilot program created three months ago.
"The people that are going to have records are folks that live in neighborhoods that are overpoliced and targeted for enforcement", Hechinger told the New York Times. They support making pot legal, but say the city should act before that happens.
After being elected mayor, de Blasio announced a new policy of cannabis decriminalization, in which anyone caught with under 25 grams of pot would be receive a summons rather than be arrested.
"Given New York's embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers".
As the city and district attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn are moving toward easing the way they enforce marijuana laws, the Island's District Attorney Michael McMahon has declined to take a position on the issue.
The rates were even worse in Manhattan, where black people were arrested on marijuana charges at 15 times the rate of white people. Although marijuana arrests dropped during de Blasio's tenure, there were still over 17,000 arrests in 2017.
"The NYPD has no interest in arresting New Yorkers for marijuana offenses when those arrests have no impact on public safety", O'Neill added. The first from City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that legalizing marijuana could bring the state $3.1 billion, including $1.1 billion for the city.
"Now the grandchild of stop-and-frisk is marijuana arrests based on race", Sharpton said.
On the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo commissioned a study on legalization earlier this year.