Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has officially announced a change in his office’s policy when it comes to low-level weed arrests. The new policy aims to reduce penalties for weed arrests.
The New Policy
In addition to lightening the load for first and second-time marijuana offenders, the main goal of the new policy is to protect immigrants from penalties that could lead to deportation. Similarly, it could help address racial disparities in policing practices.
The change comes on the heels of President Trump’s increased restrictions on illegal immigration. More specifically, the use of court documents to locate and deport illegal immigrants.
Essentially, the new policy protects immigrants from getting deported for a petty crime like weed possession. At least on their first couple of offenses.
The updated policy is basically an extension of a pre-existing judicial tool called the Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD).
The previous policy offered a year-long ACD for first-time offenders. This means the case would be adjourned for 12 months, and ultimately dismissed if the offender was not arrested during that period.
On a second marijuana charge, the previous policy would call for the defendant to plea to either a marijuana violation or disorderly conduct violation.
Under the new policy, first-time offenders will face just a three-month Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. Second-time offenders will face a six-month ACD.
A third or fourth arrest would result in the defendant having to plea to a marijuana violation or disorderly conduct violation.
In a statement, Vance said he believed a year long ACD is far too long for a non-violent offense. Especially considering what’s at stake.
“Until the Legislature makes progress on marijuana, we are making these ACDs as short as practicable in order to reduce these harmful collateral consequences,” Vance said. “No one should be denied a home or a college education for something as trivial as pot possession.”
Final Hit: Manhattan Launches New Policy To Reduce Penalties For Weed Arrests
Vance’s updated policy is certainly a step in the right direction. In 2016, close to 80% of the city’s weed-related arrests were for petty possession.
Additionally, the decision bodes well for immigrants and people of color, who often face long-lasting consequences for a minor weed infraction.
A recent study by the Drug Policy Alliance found that 86% of those arrested for weed possession between 2014 and 2016 were Black or Latinx.
Vance also announced several other progressive policy changes that will be integrated relatively soon. He announced his office is working on a policy to end prosecutions for low-level drug offenses.
Under the prospective program, dubbed Manhattan Hope, the DA will decline to prosecute a case if the defendant attends one short program session.
This includes misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. As long as it includes weed, it sounds good to us. The war on weed could be dissolving, one policy at a time.