As lawmakers move to legalize recreational marijuana use in New York, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino Jr. announced changes to how lower level marijuana offenses will be prosecuted.
Beginning on Monday, Jan. 14, violations for marijuana possession will no longer be prosecuted and misdemeanor possession of marijuana will be prosecuted as violations.
Under the new policy, the possession of small amounts (2 ounces or less) of marijuana will no longer result in a criminal conviction negating the collateral damage such a conviction might impose, Scarpino said.
The District Attorney’s review of the prosecution of lower level marijuana offenses is ongoing and further changes will be announced as they are adopted, said Scarpino.
“After a careful review of marijuana cases in Westchester, as well as discussions with police, community leaders and advocates, we have made the decision to change how we prosecute such offenses," Scarpino said. "This decision not to prosecute specific cases will allow many people to move forward with their lives without the stigma attached to criminal records of any kind, records that cause discrimination in housing, job and school applications. Much of this has burdened our minority communities and we believe it is time to rectify that.
"This change in how low-level marijuana cases are handled is also aimed at a better use of public resources. What has been spent on arrests and prosecutions can now be used to focus on more serious crimes.”
Scarpino is also urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to create a uniform approach to prosecuting marijuana offenses and end the disparity currently in place from county to county.
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