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District Attorney to Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Possession to Address Racial Disparity

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A New York City district attorney announced that his office will mostly stop prosecuting people for possessing or smoking marijuana to address the racial difference in marijuana enforcement, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said on Tuesday that starting Aug. 1 his office would make the change except for processing cases that “demonstrated public safety concerns.”

“The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.’s office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” he said. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serve neither of these goals.”

Cyrus added marijuana prosecutions would dip from around 5,000 to 200, per Tampa Bay Times.

His announcement came the same day as New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the police department would revise its marijuana enforcement policies in the next 30 days.

“We must and we will end unnecessary arrests and end disparity in enforcement,” de Blasio said at a conference of the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

The New York Times reported that Black people in New York City are eight times more likely to be arrested for low-level marijuana offenses than Whites, which is similar to the Federal rate.

Around 87 percent of people arrested for pot in NYC are black and Hispanic, per Tampa Bay Times.

“We have got to continue to drive down the arrests,” de Blasio said on Monday “We’ve got to look at other policy changes that will help us do that. I don’t accept disparity. I really don’t.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hinted that New York state may loosen marijuana restrictions saying that the “facts have changed.”

His about-face comes after his Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, came out in support of legalizing pot largely due to the racial disparity.

“We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” Nixon said in a campaign video last month.

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