A statement released to the press on Tuesday, by the District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, is likely bringing great joy to all marijuana enthusiasts in the Brooklyn district of NYC. According to the document, signed by D.A. Kenneth Thompson, those caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana will not be prosecuted if they have no previous criminal records. Even though they might be arrested for possession, they can rest assured that their arrests will be dismissed, without even the need for so much as a court hearing before a judge.
The announcement marks a resolute shift in policies regarding marijuana for the Brooklyn DA’s office. Such cases would normally have been prosecuted and eventually dismissed in a court in the Brooklyn districted. The memo from the DA’s office says they will be dismissed from the get-go from now on, without the need to see a judge any longer. Though this is the official stance on the matter from the DA’s office, it’s worth bearing in mind that the NYPD doesn’t quite feel the same about it. In fact, several commenters have expressed concern that this recent decision will cause tension between the two law enforcement organizations in the New York district of Brooklyn.
At the same time, newly appointed DA Kenneth Thompson had promised to address the issue of marijuana policies from the beginning of his term in office. Early this year, he announced he would do something to change current regulations and, ever since, he has been negotiating the issue with representatives of the NYPD. According to Thompson, there are thousands of arrests prompted by such cases every year. They take their toll on the already suffocating justice system in NYC and Thompson believes that the resources they demand “could be redirected to more serious crimes”, instead of harrowing offenders.
On the other hand, though, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the NYPD is not going to change the way it views and addresses cases of small possession. Bratton explained that, while he sees where the young DA is coming from, addressing such cases differently in Brooklyn would come against the NYPD’s policy of enforcing the New York state laws in the same way throughout the five boroughs of the city.
According to Thompson, in 2013 the DA’s office had to deal with over 8,500 small-time pot-related offenses. Most of the culprits were people of color and most of the cases (over two thirds, Thompson said) were dismissed. The only condition imposed thus far in such cases was for the culprit to maintain a clear criminal record over the course of the following year. Under the new policy, minors caught in possession of marijuana will be sent to a drug rehabilitation program. Also, the new rule does not apply to offenders who are violent, or to those who smoke pot around children.