Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Tuesday unveiled a new policy ending almost all prosecution of marijuana possession and smoking.
The New York district attorney’s office will no longer prosecute the cases as of Wednesday, except in cases where marijuana is being sold or if an individual involved “poses a significant threat to public safety.”
The new policy is expected to reduce the number of prosecutions for marijuana in Manhattan by 96 percent, from about 5,000 cases annually to fewer than 200 each year, according to a release.
Vance said in a statement that the “needless criminalization of pot smoking” prevents prosecutors from being able to carry out their duties, and urged lawmakers to legalize marijuana fully.
“Our research has found virtually no public safety rationale for the ongoing arrest and prosecution of marijuana smoking, and no moral justification for the intolerable racial disparities that underlie enforcement,” Vance said.
“Tomorrow, our Office will exit a system wherein smoking a joint can ruin your job, your college application, or your immigration status, but our advocacy will continue,” he continued.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced last month that New York police officers will no longer arrest people for smoking marijuana in public; officers will have the authority to write tickets for pot smoking.
The change was part of NYPD’s plans to reform its policies on marijuana.
The New York Times reported that there is a significant racial disparity in the city’s marijuana arrests, with roughly 87 percent of those charged being black or Hispanic.