Following officials in San Francisco and Seattle, Brooklyn’s top prosecutor has announced a plan that could erase tens of thousands of low-level marijuana convictions, the Associated Press reports.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said last week that he will invite people to ask the courts to dismiss pot possession misdemeanors or violations. He expects prosecutors to assent in the “great majority of a potential 20,000 cases just since 1990,” according to the AP.
Gonzalez’ office has stopped prosecuting most cases that involve procession of a small amount of pot, according to another AP story.
”It’s a little unfair to say we’re no longer prosecuting these cases, but to have these folks carry these convictions for the rest of their lives,” he told the news source.
In May, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said he would tell the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking marijuana in public, Next City reported. His announcement came on the heels of a New York Times investigation that found that black and Hispanic people were arrested on marijuana charges in New York at much higher rates than white people, but marijuana use was consistent across races.
Gonzalez appears to be looking toward San Francisco, where District Attorney George Gascón said in February that his office would review and wipe out marijuana convictions dating back to 1975 en masse. And the City of Seattle in April filed a motion with the Seattle Municipal court that could remove marijuana convictions handed down between 1997 and 2010.
Both cities had a Colorado legal precedent to thank. In 2014, a Colorado appeals court ruled that certain pot-related criminal convictions could be overturned, and while the decision was limited but it helped pave the way for how states review past drug convictions, as Next City covered earlier this year.
Unlike Seattle, San Francisco or the state of Colorado, recreational marijuana isn’t legal in New York. But according to the AP, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed a panel to draft legislation that could legalize it.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.