BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez went to court Wednesday to follow through on his promise to stop prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses.
Gonzalez requested, and a judge agreed, to erase 30 misdemeanor marijuana convictions and toss out all 1,400 open warrants for low-level marijuana possession in Brooklyn.
His office is the first in the state to take this action, but with the state considering legalizing recreational marijuana, other district attorneys could soon follow.
“I think it would be hypocritical and unjust to saddle people with these old convictions,” Gonzalez said.
Most of these arrests and convictions came during the NYPD’s aggressive use of stop and frisk policing, a tactic since abandoned.
“I’m very proud that we are doing this in Brooklyn because Brooklyn was Ground Zero for a lot of stop and frisk and broken windows enforcement,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez says doing this will actually make the public safer because it will build a greater trust of the legal system.
More importantly, he says it will help improve the lives of mainly black and Latino New Yorkers, who studies showed were disproportionately prosecuted for violating marijuana laws.
“They serve as tremendous hindrances for people to move forward on their lives in terms of employment in terms of education and housing,” Gonzalez said.
There are still 20,000 past convictions the DA will continue to gradually erase from the books. He says ideally once the state legalizes recreational marijuana there will be a mechanism in the law to make erasing those convictions easier.