By appointing Steve Cook to oversee the Justice Department’s focus on cannabis, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has once again doubled down on his archaic criminal justice stance and left the door wide open for a large-scale legal weed crackdown. Outside of Sessions’ immediate circle though, not everyone is excited about implementing the new set of law and order tactics.
In an opinion article published by City and State New York, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez spoke out against Sessions’ push for mandatory minimums and made it known that cannabis decriminalization is working in his densely populated borough.
“My views on this issue are shaped by my work as the district attorney in Brooklyn and the 22 years that I’ve worked in the office.” Gonzalez wrote. “While keeping the people of Brooklyn safe is my top priority, I also know that we are never going to incarcerate ourselves to safety and we are never going to change our communities by only putting people in prison.”
Gonzalez continued by detailing the ways in which a 2014 decision to decriminalize small-quantity marijuana possession has been a huge success for a District Attorney’s office with far bigger fish to fry than non-violent drug offenders.
“(Decriminalization) freed up police officers and prosecutors to focus on serious threats to public safety. It is improving the relationship between law enforcement and the community. And most importantly - it is making our criminal justice system fairer.”
Sessions’ sentencing rules would only intensify the tension between police and minority communities. In Brooklyn, Gonzales noted, black people are nine times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. No one is saying New York City’s criminal justice system is perfect, but the last thing needed is more people sent to Rikers Island for smoking a joint on the sidewalk.
Gonzales ended his chiding by calling out Attorney General Sessions’ medieval approach to criminal justice.
“Our experience in Brooklyn shows why Attorney General Sessions’ announcement is so misguided. Public safety does not require us to adhere to an outdated and ineffective ‘tough on crime’ approach. Instead, we need to be smart on crime, which is what we have done in the Brooklyn District Attorney's office.”