Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced the implementation of his policy to end the prosecution of most low-level marijuana possession cases. With this bold and smart initiative, DA Thompson is using his discretionary authority as the top law enforcement officer in Brooklyn to refocus limited law enforcement resources on serious public safety issues, address and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and ensure that Brooklyn residents are no longer saddled with lifelong arrest records for simple possession of marijuana. In a statement released by DA Thompson, he noted that he shares responsibility with NYPD to protect public safety, but he has an additional duty “to reform and improve our criminal justice system in Brooklyn.”
Advocates applaud Thompson’s efforts to address a broken law that has led to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers being arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Over the last fifteen years, over 600,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession in New York City – the majority of whom are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Last year, there were nearly 30,000 such arrests in New York City alone. Based on first-quarter data obtained from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, NYPD is now on track to make nearly as many marijuana possession arrests in 2014 as it did in 2013, with similarly shocking racial disparities.
“We commend DA Thompson for this powerful step toward restoring fairness and equity in the criminal justice system,” said Gabriel Sayegh, NY State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “In New York, our marijuana policies are clearly broken. Albany has yet to act, which means it’s up to municipal leaders to take action on this issue. Thompson’s smart policy will serve the cause of justice and equity in Brooklyn, and we hope district attorneys across the City and the country – as well as Mayor de Blasio and leaders in Albany – are inspired to take similar action. It’s time to end this failed war on drugs and restore sanity, equity and justice to our drug policies.”