New York’s efforts to legalize cannabis are moving about as slowly as its deteriorating subway system that’s been in a state of emergency since 2017. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office is making strides with decriminalization, however, offering two free expedited community-based sessions this week to expunge previous convictions for low-level cannabis offenses.
As part of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s overall Justice 2020 criminal justice reform program, NYPD has stopped arresting people for smoking weed and Gonzalez is no longer prosecuting minor possession and public smoking cases. There are, of course, exceptions and pertain to those “who pose a threat to public safety (e.g. driving with burning marijuana); create a genuine nuisance (e.g. smoking on public transportation or in a schoolyard where children are exposed to smoke); or are involved in violent criminal activity (i.e. ‘drivers of crime’).” Since adopting the policy change, possession cases dropped by a staggering 98.5 percent from 349 in Jan. to only five as of Oct. 2018.
Simply decriminalizing doesn’t help the predominantly minority communities that have been long been targeted for these minor offenses, which is why Brooklyn will join initiatives, like the recent National Expungement Week in October and state proposal HB 2367