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History in NYC as DA Moves to Eradicate 20,000 Marijuana Convictions

close up of marijuana plant
As marijuana becomes increasingly legalized around the country, states and cities are left with how to handle past convictions. New York is moving to overturn them. Image via Pixabay.

Up to 20,000 marijuana convictions in New York City may soon be wiped out thanks to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Gonzalez is leading the charge in NY to dismiss convictions for marijuana offenses that the state is no longer prosecuting. The DA’s move is part of a larger movement of overturning marijuana convictions around the country as marijuana becomes increasingly legalized.

To implement the policy change, Gonzalez has invited people to submit requests to have their marijuana convictions dismissed. Gonzalez predicted most of the 20,000 marijuana convictions since 1990 and some older convictions would be approved for dismissal. The office of the Brooklyn district attorney is no longer prosecuting most marijuana offenses, and Gonzalez thinks it’s only right to strike out existing minor convictions.

“It’s a little unfair to say we’re no longer prosecuting these cases, but to have these folks carry these convictions for the rest of their lives,” Gonzalez told The Associated Press in an interview last Thursday.

As Marijuana is Legalized, What to do With Past Convictions?

In recent years marijuana has achieved an increasingly legal position around the country. Twenty-nine states have medical marijuana programs but not all are currently operational, and some only cover limited medical conditions. In some states without legalized medical marijuana, CBD (the non-psychoactive component of marijuana) is allowed to help manage conditions like epilepsy, cancer, anxiety and more. Nine states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana with varying conditions on its use.

As the legal status for marijuana has changed around the country, cities and states have been left with the matter of what to do with marijuana convictions for offenses that no longer would be considered illegal. According to the ACLU, over half of all drug arrests in the U.S. are for marijuana, and 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for simply possessing the drug. The ACLU also reports that while blacks and whites show similar usage rates of marijuana, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.

A marijuana arrest can be devastating, because of the power a single conviction can have on a person’s record. An arrest creates a permanent criminal record that can be found by any employer, bank, credit screener, landlord, government entity and so on.

Advocates for legalizing marijuana also argue legalization will free up valuable police personnel, resources and funds. According to the ACLU, in 2010 states combined spent $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana laws. New York and California combined spent over $1 billion on enforcing marijuana possession laws. As marijuana becomes legalized that money can be used for other police purposes, like pursuing violent criminal offenses.

Several prosecutors in states that have now legalized marijuana have begun to void convictions. Just last month, lawmakers in California approved a measure that would force prosecutors to void or reduce up to 220,000 marijuana convictions in the state. Lawmakers are waiting on California Gov. Jerry Brown to approve the initiative.

Individual cities like San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle where marijuana is now legal have also taken steps to wipe out past marijuana convictions.

New York Appears to be on a Path to Legalized Recreational Marijuana

Gonzalez’s initiative to strike out thousands of pot convictions in Brooklyn will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. However, in New York, recreational marijuana is still illegal and the law under which most marijuana convictions were made still stands. New York does allow marijuana-based medications for treating certain conditions in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo has appointed a panel to draft legislation that could legalize recreational marijuana.

There are five boroughs in New York City – Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Gonzalez and Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. pledged to stop prosecuting most marijuana offenses, but the three other borough DAs still prosecute marijuana offenses. Queens and the Bronx have, however, made recent moves towards stopping prosecution of marijuana offenses.

Gonzalez’s plan is to allow minor offenders convicted of marijuana use and possession to approach the court for case dismissal. The DAs office will, however, turn down requests made by people additionally convicted of felonies, sexual violence, or drug sales among others. Legal groups are free to help offenders sort out the cases with the DA’s office or at the courts.

Dismissing the convictions ultimately lies with the judge. Typically, judges agree to prosecutor’s requests to dismiss cases or convictions.

 

World Shifting on Marijuana? UN to Review Classification of Marijuana

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10 Comments

  1. Brian Kelly September 10, 2018

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

    Don’t be fooled by marijuana “decriminalization” because citizens are still going to be treated like common criminals for marijuana under it. This is what desperate anti-marijuana prohibitionist types will now settle for.

    They also fail to mention the additional huge cost of court costs which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars on top of the relatively small ticket/fine.

    If you fail to pay these very expensive and often unaffordable court costs you will be in “the system” as a criminal. With a warrant out for your arrest and incarceration.

    This policy still allows marijuana to be used as a tool and probable cause by law enforcement to investigate marijuana consumers for no other reason other than even the detection of the scent of marijuana by law enforcement.

    Overall, decriminalization though it’s hidden, super expensive court costs and mandatory summons to appear in court, combined with the allowance of marijuana to still be used by law enforcement as a tool and probable cause still allows marijuana to be an ordinary. otherwise law abiding citizen’s introduction into the criminal justice system.

    No thanks! If this so called policy of marijuana “decriminalization” truly means marijuana is no longer supposed to be a “crime”, then why are marijuana consumers still going to be treated like criminals under it?

    Marijuana consumers demand equal rights and protections under our laws as the drinkers of alcohol. Plain and simple!

    Citizens will STILL be forced to the dangerous black market and a shady illegal street drug dealer to purchase their marijuana. Getting caught buying it is STILL a crime they will arrest and jail you for. Then, they will also most likely try to FORCE you to either mandatory community service and/or rehab, and if you don’t comply, guess what? JAILTIME!

    Also, we will still be wasting our tax dollars sending police around to write summons to marijuana users and wasting police manpower and resources.

    Instead of allowing our police the time, manpower and resources to protect us all from real, dangerous criminals who actually commit crimes with victims and pose a real threat to society.

    Why else do you think some politicians are so EAGER to “decriminalize”, instead of LEGALIZE?

    Don’t Let’em Fool Us!!!

    If you can’t purchase it legally, then it isn’t legal.

    If you have to fear a monetary fine/ticket which if you don’t pay and/or show up in court to handle, you then become a criminal with a warrant out for your arrest, and when convicted (yes convicted, as in crime.) you will then be forced into free manual labor and/or forced drug rehabilitation to be used as another statistic prohibitionists love to flaunt about supposed “marijuana addicts”, then….No, it’s not legal!

    This will not suffice! Getting caught purchasing marijuana is still considered a serious “drug deal” and you will be prosecuted for it!

    DEMAND FULL MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION NATIONWIDE!

    Reply
  2. Janice Iannaccone September 10, 2018

    Only the beginning🙋💯

    Reply
  3. Shirley Hawkins September 10, 2018

    Good but helping out for housing market next.

    Reply
  4. Gail Dupre September 15, 2018

    Then the DOJ can open them back up.

    Reply
  5. Luiz Diaz September 15, 2018

    GREAT NEWS ABOUT TIME **

    Reply
  6. Cindy Stevens September 15, 2018

    Vote blue NY

    Reply
  7. Irma Seabury September 16, 2018

    Vote red – that was Clinton’s Three strikes and you’re out law that sent many to serve long terms even though the third offense was a minor violation such as selling MJ. This law caused many private prisons to open and many judges to inflate their means by sending the victims of this law to these private prisons. Imprisonment should never be for profit.

    Reply
  8. Sheila Perez September 16, 2018

    TYJ!!! For hearing our plea!! About TIME!!!

    Reply
  9. Mary Urech Stallings September 16, 2018

    Legalize.

    Reply
  10. Jo Kilpatrick September 16, 2018

    Wrong

    Reply

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