Boro potheads: District attorney’s weed policy makes sinsemilla

Stoned age: Rebecca Dealy stars as Mary Lane (get it?) in the Gallery Players’ produciton of “Reefer Madness.” And no, that’s not a real joint.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Toke ’em if you got ’em!

District Attorney Ken Thompson told the New York Police Department that his office will stop prosecuting people caught carrying marijuana or smoking it out in the open for the first time, according to a memo obtained by the New York Post. Borough ganja enthusiasts let out a deep breath upon hearing the news and said Thompson’s move could clear the air around the drug they say has been considered illicit for far too long.

“If the district attorney stays true to his word, and I hope he will, he will have taken a tremendous step towards emancipating untold thousands of recreational and medicinal marijuana users from a prohibition that is both morally unjust and economically foolish,” said Jack, a city employee who partakes of pot “whenever he can” and asked that his name be changed to conceal his identity.

Prosecutors will instruct police to toss out cases involving defendants with minor or nonexistent criminal records, as well as defendants facing misdemeanor charges that apply to less than two ounces of weed, according to the Post.

Should the cases make it to court, the borough’s top lawman will toss them out like so many stems and sticks, the memo said.

The policy is meant to discourage police from arresting black and Latino youths for the offense, Thompson said. In the year 2010, Brooklyn accounted for a third of the city’s 60,000 marijuana arrests and black men were nearly 10 times more likely to get pinched for possession, despite the fact that studies show black and white youngsters toke up at comparable rates nationwide, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The change in policy will free up more time for the district attorney’s office to concentrate on more serious crimes, according to Thompson.

“The goal of this new policy is to ensure that the resources of this office are allocated in a manner that most enhances public safety, and individuals, especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal-justice system,” the memo said.

Smoke-out: Brooklynites without criminal records can now smoke blunts like this guy in Flatbush without fear of prosecution, though a night in jail might still be in the cards.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A Brooklyn transplant who used to puff the magic dragon regularly echoed the racial-justice sentiment.

“Hopefully the initiative will take away some of the racial profiling and divisiveness attached to minor changes like these,” said Rosalie, a Crown Heights resident and former occasional user who asked that her last name not be used.

Another daily dope-smoker applauded the policy, contending that marijuana is not the dangerous drug police officers and some politicians would have people believe.

“I just think it’s kind-of ridiculous that cigarettes and alcohol are perfectly legal and acceptable to advertise in the presence of children and outside, and that something like weed wouldn’t be at least considered on the same level of legality,” said Fort Greene resident Teddy, a freelance video editor who also opted to go surname-less.

Teddy’s roommate Brittany, who lights up three or four times per month, said that society is not in imminent danger of collapse in the wake of Thompson’s policy shift.

“I think if you can light up a cigarette on the street, you should be able to light up a joint — it’s not nearly as harmful to yourself or those around you,” she said. “Everything is good in moderation. If everyone is walking around stoned out of their minds, there could be far more negative outcomes.”

Police commissioner Bill Bratton, who has emphasized arresting people for minor infractions under the theory that it will prevent major crimes, told Capital New York that he has not talked to Thompson about the protocol change or seen the details.

A bong way and a right way: District Attorney Ken Thompson won't prosecute people arrested for low-level marijuana crimes.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.

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