The findings follow an article published Sunday at the New York Times that found that over a period of three years, black people in New York were eight times more likely to face arrest for low-level marijuana charges. The speaker and Sharpton both compared the impact of pot arrests on minorities with past police stop-and-frisk street tactics, which de Blasio attacked five years ago as a candidate.
The Brooklyn district attorney's office, which in 2014 made a decision to stop prosecuting many low-level marijuana cases, is considering expanding its policy so that more people now subject to arrest on marijuana charges, including those who smoke outside without creating a public nuisance, would not be prosecuted, one official familiar with the discussions said. Effective August first, my Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases.
Vance said the aim was "a safer NY and a more equal justice system". "The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals".
Discussions were ongoing to consider "limited exceptions" to the policy.
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill formed a 30-day Working Group to review the department's marijuana enforcement across demographics. "Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade", Frederique continued. "We need an honest assessment about why they exist".
Under the DA's office new policy, people who violate the law would be issued summonses. In Manhattan, black people were arrested at 15 times the rate of their white counterparts, the Times reported. Arrests can negatively impact job opportunities, schooling and immigration status.
CNN reached out to the offices of district attorneys in other boroughs to see whether they are considering similar measures.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of few NY politicians who has opposed marijuana legalization, promised to relax police enforcement after facing increasing pressure to address racial disparities in pot arrests.
Today's announcement marks the culmination of six months of research and policy analysis, including extensive, in-person interviews with law enforcement officials in jurisdictions where marijuana is no longer criminally prosecuted. Meanwhile, more and more states are moving toward legalization, and President Donald Trump recently endorsed allowing states to decide how to regulate the drug, which is illegal under federal law.
The change comes as New York State moves toward potentially legalizing marijuana.
Medical marijuana is legal under NY law, but can not be smoked.