Manhattan District Attorney Vance Drops more than 3000 Open Cannabis Cases
In September, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance dropped more than 3000 open cannabis cases against residents of New York. This change in policy in the city of Manhattan is because citizens were complaining about the continued arrests for misdemeanor cannabis use and possession in New York cities, although recreational cannabis is legal in nine states, and medicinal cannabis is legal in 30 states, including the state of New York. The DA’s decision could affect cases dating back to 1978.
The DA of Manhattan’s decision is similar to other recent changes in NYPD policy which concerns low-level use and cannabis possession. From September 2018, residents of New York caught consuming marijuana publicly will be faced with summonses and fines instead of being arrested and facing the court. The same changes in the policy of the NYPD on misdemeanor cannabis possession started in early 2014. According to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, similar measures to reduce the number of arrests relating to marijuana possession have also been taken in the city of Brooklyn, “leading to a 75% decrease in the total number of arrests and affirming that this kind of policy does not negatively affect public safety,”. When the reform was enacted in 2014, the total amount of prosecutions relating to low-level cannabis consumption or possession in Brooklyn has declined over 91 percent. Residents of New York are anxiously waiting for more changes in city and state policy concerning the legality of marijuana.
Recent Reuter’s article states that the decision will bring justice and tackle racial disparities in the execution of marijuana offenses. The NYPD has a long history of violence on black communities; a 2017 data shows that arrest relating to marijuana use in New York have constantly affected people of color. District Attorney Vance said that “by vacating these warrants, they are limiting pointless future interactions with the criminal justice system.”
The big decision made by the DA of Manhattan could signify that greater changes relating to the legality of cannabis are imminent. Due to the progression of other states like Colorado and Nevada, which are bringing in millions of dollars each month in tax revenue alone, the financial advantage of legalization is becoming difficult to overlook. The constant execution of Manhattan residents due to low-level cannabis use or possession is becoming very difficult for the state and taxpayers. A recent article from CNN on prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana-related crime states that marijuana convictions creates huge costs for the legal system and separates a lot of people. District Attorney Vance said that they made the decision suits the justice system.
However, District Attorney Vance decision won’t affect all marijuana-related misdemeanor criminal cases. Nevertheless, this decision is meant only for cases which deal with outstanding warrants where defendants failed to show up for their court cases. But people who have already been convicted for the use and possession of marijuana will not be affected. The DA will not stop pursuing more serious cases relating to marijuana, for instance, those involved in the criminal sale of marijuana, which is a felony in the state of New York.