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Brooklyn DA proposes new marijuana rules

Nayaba Arinde | 5/1/2014, 2:27 p.m.
States spend $3.6 billion on racially biased marijuana arrests

This is not Colorado, and the recreational smoking of marijuana is still not legal in New York. However, while not condoning the casual smoking of marijuana, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has stated that he will no longer prosecute folk caught with 20 grams or less of the drug.

Last Friday, a crowd of activists, lawyers, politicians, residents and advocates climbed the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall to ask Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop arresting folks found with minimal amounts of marijuana.

The Amsterdam News obtained a confidential memo sent to the NYPD last month just as Thompson is set to meet with Bratton to discuss his proposal this week.

The memo says that the initiative is to ensure “individuals, and especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal justice system for engaging in nonviolent conduct that poses no threat of harm to persons or property.”

The memo states, “When a defendant has neither a criminal record nor an open arrest warrant, it makes no sense for the criminal justice system, including a district attorney’s office, to devote its scarce resources to lengthy case processing. We are pouring money and effort into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit to the community.”

The memorandum went on to state that if it is determined that “the defendant has either no criminal record or a very minimal criminal record, there will be a presumption that such case will be immediately dismissed in the interest of justice.”

If the person who is caught, however, has a “history of selling drugs to children, or dangerous driving under the influence or marijuana,” then all bets are off. Absent of such aggravated factors though, “the case will be resolved with an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal or a non-criminal disposition.”

While Bratton did not respond to an Amsterdam News request for comment, a number of elected officials are rallying around the call.

“This is common sense policy which is best for our community,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.“I have a bill up in Albany, and until we change the law, we need common sense policy from the commissioner of the NYPD.”

Camara said that his bill, which passed in the Assembly, both addressed the unequal application of the stops and arrests in Black and Brown neighborhoods and ensured that having marijuana in the public view would be considered a violation that would come with a fine, not arrest and jail. The state Senate shot it down.

Camara said, “So we have DA Ken Thompson taking up the cause here in Brooklyn. We will get it done.”

Assemblyman Walter Mosley added, “DA Ken Thompson made a promise to Brooklynites that he would not continue the practice of his predecessor and prosecute particular young Black and Brown men and women for low-level marijuana possession offenses. We believe that Ken Thompson is the right person to adjudicate these offenses and not the police force, not the commissioner. He is going to do his job with fairness, with blinders on.”