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Brooklyn's District Attorney has come out against prosecuting low-level pot cases, under a new policy that will provide a clean slate for some drug offenders.
District Attorney Kenneth Thompson's office will not prosecute those who are arrested for possessing less than 25 grams (just under an ounce) of marijuana and will dismiss cases currently in the system. The Wall Street Journal reports that unlike similar programs in the other New York City boroughs, small-time pot offenders in Brooklyn will have their cases dismissed before having to appear in court.
Why is the Brooklyn DA taking this stance on low-level pot cases?
As the WSJ reports, more than two-thirds of the arrests for possession of small amounts of pot in NYC -- about 20,000 cases -- ended in dismissal in 2013. That's why Thompson says it's "difficult to justify" sending these "small fry" arrestees through the system.
Other jurisdictions have reacted to this problem in different ways. Cities like Philadelphia have made possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana a civil offense that involves no jail time. California has made simple possession of an ounce or less a $100 fine, with the record automatically expunged after two years. Many other jurisdictions institute drug diversion programs or "drug courts" which allow low-level cases to be dismissed after complying with the court's orders.
Brooklyn's new policy is somewhat novel. While New York has also decriminalized possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana (it's only a $100 fine), the current system requires offenders to be processed and often appear in court.
But in a memo released Tuesday, Thompson explained that declining to prosecute low-level pot cases would not only save the borough's resources, but also prevent burdening "young people of color" with criminal penalties.
Not all low-level pot offenders in Brooklyn will be given a dismissal without having to step inside a courtroom. Offenders are likely to have their cases dismissed if they:
Still, smoking marijuana in public remains a Class B misdemeanor in New York. The WSJ reports that cases of openly smoking marijuana, for the most part, will still be prosecuted in Brooklyn.
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