Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has announced a new policy that will end the prosecution of marijuana possession and smoking in the borough, except in cases where the drug is being sold or if it poses a significant threat to public safety.
The new New York policy, announced Tuesday, could reduce marijuana prosecutions on the island by as much as 96 per cent, which would account for a drop from 5,000 cases a year to 200 a year, according to a statement from Mr Vance’s office.
“Every day I ask our prosecutors to keep Manhattan safe and make our justice system more equal and fair,” Mr Vance said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “The needless criminalisation of pot smoking frustrates this core mission, so we are removing ourselves from the equation”.
Mr Vance continued to say that research performed by the district attorney’s office shows “virtually no public safety rationale” for marijuana arrests or prosecution, whether for smoking the drug or simply possessing it.
That research cited says that New Yorkers “consume a large amount of marijuana”, and that the criminal justice system put in place to police and deter that consumption disproportionately results in arrests of minorities.
In announcing the new marijuana policy in Manhattan, Mr Vance used the opportunity to advocate on behalf of legalising marijuana for recreational use across the entire state.
The marijuana research also notes the benefits of doing so, including potential tax revenues from, essentially, an entirely new industry in the state.
“Tomorrow, our office will exit a system wherein smoking a joint can ruin your job, your college application, or your immigration status, but our advocacy will continue,” Mr Vance says in the statement. “I urge New York lawmakers to legalise and regulate marijuana once and for all”.
Recreational marijuana use is legal in a handful of US states, including Colorado, Washington, and California, which legalised the drug just this year.