Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson has applauded the new marijuana policy unveiled on Monday by Mayor Bill DeBlasio and New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner William J. Bratton.
“I applaud the Mayor’s decision to no longer arrest first-time offenders or individuals found in possession of small amounts of marijuana citywide, similar to the approach that I have taken in Brooklyn,” Thompson said.
“I also agree with Police Commissioner Bratton that we must put in place certain safeguards to ensure that this new policy is not carried out in a discriminatory manner,” he added.
But Thompson said he was “concerned about the due process rights of those who are given marijuana summonses, which for Brooklyn, will be addressed at a location in Manhattan that is already overburdened.”
The mayor, who took office promising to reform the NYPD and repair strained relations with black and Latino communities, said, while he was not advocating the decriminalization of marijuana, the impact of enforcement on the people arrested and on the NYPD forced him to rethink how the police deal with low-level marijuana arrests.
“When an individual is arrested, even for the smallest possession of marijuana, it hurts their chances to get a good job; it hurts their chances to get housing; it hurts their chances to qualify for a student loan,” the mayor said.
“It can literally follow them for the rest of their lives and saddle young people with challenges that, for many, are very difficult to overcome,” he added.
Under the new plan, deBlasio said people found with small amounts of marijuana will typically be given a ticket and cited for a violation instead of being arrested and charged with a crime.
Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08) welcomed the change, saying it “appears to be a step in the right direction and a good-faith attempt by the mayor to achieve a more equitable approach to minor marijuana possession in New York City.”
But Jeffries urged that the new policy be enforced “equitably across all races.”
“To the extent the police department continues to disproportionately enforce the law in Black and Latino communities, any administrative change on minor marijuana possession will constitute window-dressing in the name of reform,” he warned.
“The policy must be accompanied by the NYPD’s willingness to treat everyone equally,” he added.