Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said he plans to enact a new policy under which the office would not prosecute low-level marijuana possession cases for people with no criminal record or a “very minimal” one, according to an office memo.
“It makes no sense for the criminal justice system, including the district attorney’s office, to devote its scarce resources to lengthy case processing,” said the April 10 memo, which explained the still-to-be implemented plans. It also said “We are pouring money and effort into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit for the community.”
The memo, which has been sent to the New York City Police Department, follows Thompson’s campaign arguments that questioned the usefulness of pressing low-level marijuana cases (NYLJ, Sept. 9, 2013).
It noted that in 2013, more than 8,500 cases had a top charge of Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession and more than two-thirds were dismissed by the courts.
Under the intended policy, when a case with a Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession top charge comes into the Early Case Assessment Bureau via an arrest or desk appearance ticket, and the arrestee has no record or a “very minimal” one, the presumption would be that the case will be “immediately dismissed in the interest of justice” within the bureau before getting processed into the courts.
The memo added that if the individual was being held, the police would “be directed to free the defendant” and the “be directed to destroy the defendant’s fingerprints.”
Thompson spokesperson Sheila Stainback said, “The District Attorney is moving forward on a whole range of smart-on-crime strategies to keep the people of Brooklyn safe while working closely with our partners in law enforcement.” The police department did not respond to a request for comment.