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Brooklyn is Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Marijuana

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson

Brooklyn’s new district attorney has reiterated his vow not to prosecute low-level marijuana arrests.

“I not only want to keep Brooklyn safe, I want to protect the future of our youth,” Ken Thompson said during his inaugural address to a crowd of nearly 1,000. “That means we must change the policy regarding those who are arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.”

“In 2012, over 12,000 people in Brooklyn were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana, mostly young, black men,” Thompson added, referring to a 2013 report that found blacks in Brooklyn were 9 times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

“Every year, thousands of these cases are clogging our criminal justice system and require that we devote substantial resources in time and in money that we could use to put toward other initiatives to keep us safe,” he said. “And so if these defendants are given criminal records instead of violations, it would make it harder for them in the future to live productive lives. We in Brooklyn can, and must, do better.”

Thompson, the borough’s first black district attorney, promised during his campaign that he would not criminally prosecute those arrested for possessing under 15 grams of pot. Rather, he said, those arrested would be issued a non-criminal violation punishable by a $100 fine.

“He can’t pass legislation to legalize marijuana but he can decide who will be prosecuted for it, and I think it’s an excellent way to use his office,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told HuffPost after the inauguration.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York is only a crime if it’s “in public view.” Up until 1993, the city averaged fewer than 2,000 marijuana arrests a year.

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