Some people busted for marijuana possession in the streets of the largest city in the United States will no longer have to concern themselves with crippling penalties, under new plea guidelines issued earlier this week by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
According to a report from Politico, the way the municipality prosecutes first and second time marijuana offenders has been changed in an effort to prevent immigrants from being jammed up by the current administration. The primary goal is to defend these people against President Trump’s immigration policies that, in many cases, can result in the deportation of people living without U.S. citizenship.
In the past, the Manhattan DA offered a 12-month “Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal,” otherwise known as an ACD for those first timers caught in possession of marijuana. This probation-style policy simply dictated that the pot offender’s charges would be dropped if he or she did not get arrested again for a period of 12- months.
For second time offenders, the policy gave them the option of accepting a plea of either a marijuana violation or disorderly conduct.
The new policy, however, takes the penalties down a notch -- reducing the probationary timeframe to three months for a first offense and six months for a second. Third and fourth offenses will be given the choice between pleading to a pot violation or disorderly conduct.
It is a move intended to protect undocumented immigrants from being deported for minor marijuana offenses.
"Until the legislature makes progress on marijuana, we are making these ACDs as short as practicable in order to reduce these harmful collateral consequences," Vance said. "No one should be denied a home or a college education for something as trivial as pot possession."
In addition, the Manhattan DA also plans to implement a new program in 2018 that will eliminate prosecutions for all minor drug-related crimes.
Despite Mayor de Blasio’s 2014 plan to replace minor pot possession arrests with a court summons, the NYPD still arrested more people for simple marijuana possession in 2016 than the year before.
Nearly 80 percent of the city’s more than 17,000 marijuana busts are for this petty violation.
A recent press release suggests that Vance’s policy ideals will end criminal prosecutions for around 20,000 non-violent offenders each year.