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Law Offices of Robert Briere
New York City Criminal Defense Lawyer

The tide is shifting towards legalization of marijuana here in New York City, but its moving slow

Nationwide, public sentiment towards legalization of marijuana has grown exponentially in recent years and that sentiment has been reflected in the reform of many of the States' marijuana laws. For example, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, and Washington have changed their marijuana laws so that people caught with small amounts are no longer arrested.  In California alone, the reforms have resulted in a decrease of more than 50,000 marijuana arrests per year.  

Under ballot initiatives approved this month, Alaska and Washington, D.C., will eliminate all penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. (Possessing up to an ounce was already a citable offense in Oregon, where voters also approved marijuana legalization this month.) In 2016 marijuana legalization is expected to be on the ballot in several more states.

As for New York Marijuana laws, Governor Cuomo has stated his support of legislation that would decriminalize public possession of small amounts of marijuana.  In his 2013 state of the union address the governor made a forceful call for immediate reform stating : "It's not fair, it's not right. It must end, and it must end now."

Here in New York City,  the NYPD under Bill Bratton announced on October 19, 2014 that they would no longer arrest individuals for possessing less than 25 grams of marijuana. However, as of March 2, 2015 it sounds as though Bratton is making marijuana the scapegoat for the murder rate in NYC.  Read this article

For the most part, elected officials and city prosecutors are supportive of the new policy.  They believe that the policy shift will free up the police to pursue more serious crimes and reduce the burden on backlogged courts.  Here is Prosecutor Cyrus Vance's statement.

For example, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said the change would “enhance fairness without sacrificing public safety,” and called it “simply the right thing to do.” Mr. Vance has been advocating for this change in policy since the Bloomberg administration.

Another DA who supports the change is Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson.  In fact, Mr. Thompson even announced prior to the change in NYPD policy that his office would stop prosecuting misdemeanor arrests for low-level marijuana possession.

Unfortunately, even though the official policies of the district attorneys' offices might support marijuana reform, there are still individual prosecutors requesting jail time for first time marijuana defendants.  So call your lawyer. ype your paragraph here.