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November 21, 2018

Broken pot promises: Court group says prosecutors still targeting blacks and Hispanics for low-level drug possession

November 2, 2018
Members of the group Court Watch rally on the north steps of Manhattan Criminal Court on November 1, 2018. (Alec Tabak / for New York Daily News)

Law enforcement across the city disproportionately target blacks and Hispanics despite promises in Manhattan and Brooklyn to cut back on prosecution for pot possession, lawyers sad Thursday.

While more than half of white people charged with a drug crime are released without bail, only 25 percent of blacks and 32 percent of Hispanics get the same consideration, according to a Court Watch NYC report.




And, despite new policies aimed at reducing marijuana prosecutions, defendants in Manhattan and Brooklyn continue to be arbitrarily prosecuted for pot-related offenses, the report said.

“They’re perpetuating mass incarceration in the name of the people,” Nora Rawn, a Court Watch volunteer.

She said the group’s conclusions were based on the observations of 132 trained volunteers who spent 423 hours in Brooklyn and Manhattan.arraignment courts.

But Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr.said marijuana prosecutions were down 94 % in Manhattan last month compared to the same time the previous year. He said there was also a 96 % reduction in arrests.

“The Manhattan D.A.’s Office has exited the marijuana business,” Vance said.

A spokesman for Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, said the office has stepped up its prosecution of synthetic marijuana.

“K2 is dangerous, it is illegal and we have been working closely with the Police Department to crack down on K2 sales,” Brooklyn DA spokesman Oren Yaniv said. “K2 is not marijuana and does not fall within the purview of the District Attorney’s marijuana enforcement policy, under which our Office has stopped prosecuting all possession and smoking cases except for the most egregious exceptions. Marijuana and K2 should not be conflated.”

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