TIME Drugs

Brooklyn Prosecutors Won’t Pursue Low-Level Marijuana Arrests

Rally Held In Support Of Brooklyn DA's Plan To Stop Prosecuting Minor Marijuana Offenses
Elected officials, community leaders and local activists attend a rally outside Brooklyn borough hall in support of the district attorney's plans to end prosecuting minor marijuana offenses on April 25, 2014 in New York City. On Tuesday, the district attorney's office announced it would no longer pursue some low-level drug charges in the borough. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

The district attorney thinks resources are better spent on more important crimes

Add Brooklyn to the growing list of places in America where getting caught with a small amount of marijuana may not result in legal consequences.

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office announced July 8 that it will no longer prosecute adults charged with low-level marijuana offenses who have limited or no criminal records. The policy change has been in the works for several months but was delayed as the district attorney’s office worked to address concerns from the New York Police Department.

District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement that the move to stop pursuing minor marijuana cases will allow his office to redirect resources to higher priorities and ensure that “individuals, and especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal justice system for engaging in non-violent conduct that poses no threat of harm to persons or property.”

Last year, the D.A.’s office processed more than 8,500 cases in which the top count was a marijuana possession charge.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton acknowledged Thompson’s ability to set enforcement priorities, but said that the police department’s policies involving marijuana arrests had not changed.

“We understand that it is the prerogative of each of the city’s district attorneys to decline to prosecute any criminal offense occurring within their respective jurisdictions,” Bratton said in a statement. “However, in order to be effective, our police officers must enforce the laws of the state of New York uniformly throughout all five boroughs of the city.”

The move toward decriminalization in New York City’s most populous borough comes the same day legal sales of recreational weed sales began in Washington state, and one day after New York became the 23rd state to allow medical use of marijuana.

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