Starting on August 1, 2018, those who use or possess cannabis will no longer be prosecuted, according to a press release issued by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., whose office says it intends to reduce cannabis prosecutions by 96 percent annually in New York City.
“Our research has found virtually no public safety rationale for the ongoing arrest and prosecution of marijuana smoking, and no moral justification for the intolerable racial disparities that underlie enforcement,” said Vance.
“Tomorrow, our Office will exit a system wherein smoking a joint can ruin your job, your college application, or your immigration status, but our advocacy will continue. I urge New York lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana once and for all.”
There are two exceptions to the new rule: cases against sellers and defendants who are under investigation for a violent crime.
In light of the policy shift, the Manhattan DA’s office said it is planning to seal all past marijuana convictions en masse in Fall 2018.
Vance, whose office previously commissioned a report on the effect of legalization in jurisdictions that have enacted it, first announced the new non-prosecution policy in May and is now putting it into effect.
The move is part of increasing marijuana reform effort underway in New York, where the prospect of full legalization hovers on the horizon. Some assume the race to go green is a result of the contentious upcoming gubernatorial race between incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo, who not long ago call marijuana a gateway drug, and his contender and former actress Cynthia Nixon, who has called for full legalization.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez recently announced a dramatic reduction in marijuana prosecution cases, having dropped 91% from January to June 2018 since decriminalizing cannabis use and possession.
So far, New York City’s other three boroughs have not followed suit.
Representatives for the Bronx and Staten Island have said that marijuana is still illegal in their districts, and they’ll continue to enforce the law. A Queens DA spokeswoman said they too will continue to pursue weed possession and smoking cases.