On the same day, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said that his office would stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana offenses such as possession and smoking in public this summer, while Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said his office would only prosecute cases based on public safety concerns.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that starting on August 1, he will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. "The dual mission of the Manhattan DA's Office is a safer NY and a more equal justice system", Vance said, according to Forbes. "The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals".
The department argued that was because they make arrests in neighborhoods where residents call to complain - but as the Daily News first reported, the NYPD's data on 911 and 311 calls cast doubt on those claims.
It is part of a wider effort by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NY police department to review how law enforcement deals with low-level marijuana crime.
DPA is now leading a campaign, Start Smart New York, to pass marijuana legalization in New York, with a focus on racial, social and economic justice.
Johnson, Sharpton and other Council members also called on cops to give summonses instead of arresting people caught smoking pot in public. However, she recently got into hot bong water for suggesting that affirmative action in the distribution of licenses to sell the drug legally could be a form of reparations for the high number of marijuana arrests in black communities.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised changes to the way police handle marijuana arrests. In 2015, cops arrested 9% more people for marijuana possession that they did in 2014, despite the promises of decriminalization.
"Given New York's embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers".
Acknowledging racial disparities, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said, "We need an honest assessment about why they exist.The NYPD has no interest in arresting New Yorkers for marijuana offenses when those arrests have no impact on public safety".
De Blasio did not provide any details of what the policy changes might entail.
The D.A.'s Office today released a report "Marijuana, Fairness and Public Safety: A Report on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in the United States" publicizing its findings, which helped to inform the Office's new policy. But at this point, in New York State, it is still illegal.
Sharpton said the disparity was especially shocking in a city that proved that the crime rate could still be kept down after eliminating stop and frisk.
But O'Neill added that officers do not target "any people of color who have no nexus to violence". The first from City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that legalizing marijuana could bring the state $3.1 billion, including $1.1 billion for the city. Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the left in the Democratic primary, has made marijuana legalization a central plank of her campaign platform.