Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash
Jul 27, 2021
All but eight marijuana-related convictions have been cleared in the borough
Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez gets 3,578 marijuana cases dismissed by Brooklyn Criminal Court
Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, has gotten the Brooklyn Criminal Court to dismiss 3,578 marijuana cases that remain on the docket.
This means that, as of Tuesday, almost every cannabis case in the borough, some of them dating back to the 1970s, has been expunged.
According to the DA’s office, most of the cases expunged were for low-level for possession, with some involving the selling of cannabis. Many of the cases remained on the docket because the defendants had open warrants against them. Marijuana charges that are included in more serious felony cases in the Brooklyn Supreme Court will be dismissed, according to the ruling, and those charges will not be brought before a jury.
The Brooklyn DA’s office began de-emphasizing marijuana prosecutions in 2014 under Ken Thompson’s tenure, a trend that was continued by Gonzalez when he took over after Thompson’s death in 2016. In 2017 Gonzalez stopped prosecuting nearly all cannabis smoking cases, and in 2018 began expunging past misdemeanor marijuana convictions, saying then in a statement that a “criminal record can seriously impede a person’s ability to get a job, education, housing and other important services. It is only fair to relieve these individuals of that burden and allow them to turn over a new leaf and move on with their lives.”
In March, New York State legalized recreational cannabis use after decades of arrests and prosecutions that disproportionately targeted poor, young, Black and Hispanic New Yorkers. Despite this policy change, the NYPD made 163 arrests for marijuana possession in the first quarter of 2021. Of those, 148 were Black or Hispanic. Forty-two of them were arrested in Brooklyn.
After Judge Espinal agreed to vacate the cases on Tuesday, Gonzalez released a statement saying that, “For too long, criminalization of marijuana has disproportionately impacted young people and communities of color whose members made up about 90 percent of those arrested. These arrests ruined the lives of thousands of people over the years, saddling many with criminal convictions that prevented them from pursuing opportunities in life.”
The only weed-related proceedings that remain in Brooklyn are eight cases that “involve allegations of driving while impaired” according to the Brooklyn DA’s office.
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