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NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney square off over marijuana laws

Chris Mossa/ Columbia Radio News

Chris Mossa/ Columbia Radio News

Host Intro: This week, the Brooklyn District Attorney announced that his office would no longer prosecute people arrested with small amount of marijuana. Today, drug law reform advocates held a rally in Brooklyn to celebrate. Chris Mossa has more.


Brooklyn has more marijuana arrests than any other borough. The DA’s office prosecuted 8,500 cases in 2013, but two-thirds of those were ultimately dismissed. Gabrial Sayegh [Say-Uh] of the Drug Policy Alliance, which organized the rally, thanked the District Attorney for making a policy change that should bring down those numbers.

SAYEGH: DA Thomson is using his authority to say for those people who do not pose any threat to public safety, we are not going to move them through this system as we have been doing – year in, year out – building a system of massive incarceration that does nto work. We’re no longer going to prosecute these low level offenses. And to that, we say, ‘thank you DA Thompson.’ [0:24]

Thompson is the first of the city’s five district attorneys to make such a move. It hinges on state law, which says that possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana is not a criminal offense as long as the drug is hidden. New York State Assemblyman, Karim Camara says that under the city’s stop-and-frisk policy, the problem is that the drug doesn’t always remain hidden.

CAMARA: Officers are stopping individuals. Their directing them to empty their pockets. And when they empty their pockets, instead of charging them with a summons that they should. They’re charging them with misdemeanors. So this has very severe consequences on our communities when we’re giving 14-24 year olds criminal records. [0:18]

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who opposes de-criminalization said earlier this week that the police will continue to make arrests for marijuana possession. What isn’t clear is whether the police will retain arrest records since Thompson’s office won’t file charges.

But Gabriel Sayegh [Say-Uh] from the Drug Policy Alliance says the fundamental laws haven’t changed.

SAYEGH: Police can confiscate the marijuana. They can still write people a ticket. People can still have to go to court. This doesn’t tie the hands of the police. They can still intercede. If people think they can use around and use marijuana on the street, they’ve got another thing coming to them. [0:12]

The ball’s now in Commissioner Bratton’s court to determine whether to institute any policing changes.

Chris Mossa, Columbia Radio News


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