More than 6,000 cases dealing with the sale or possession of marijuana in New York are about to be dismissed after a district attorney in the Bronx was given the all-clear by a judge.
As reported by the London Free Press, George A. Grasso, the Supervising Judge of Bronx Criminal Court, “granted the motion put forth by Bronx DA Darcel Clark to dismiss the charges,” the latest ripple effect cast by the state of New York legalizing cannabis
Judge Grasso celebrated the decision, rendered last week, as “a historic day in Bronx Criminal Court.”
“Our Criminal Justice System has responded swiftly to the actions and intent of the New York State Legislature with respect to over 6,000 pending and closed matters relating to Marijuana charges,” Grasso said in a statement. “This means that thousands of individuals (many who are young people of color) can now go about their business without being under the cloud of a criminal matter. I take pride in our Court’s continuing partnership with the Office of the District Attorney and the Defense Bar in our efforts to effect fair and impartial justice in Bronx County!”
In putting forth the motion in the courtroom, Clark said that he moved “to dismiss 6,089 cases with sole charge of misdemeanor possession or sale of marijuana.” Clark’s office said in a press release that those cases include “2,441 summonses, 1,998 pending cases with
1,974 open warrants, and 1,650 cases in which a plea was entered and there is an open warrant based upon the failure to complete a sentence.”
Clark made reference to New York’s new marijuana law in a statement following the decision. In March, legislators in New York passed a bill that was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that ended the prohibition on pot in the state, supplanting the old marijuana penal code, Article 221, with a new one.
““The Legislature has decriminalized the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana to right the wrong of disproportionate enforcement and arrests in communities of color like the Bronx. We had long stopped prosecuting these offenses because they
were not a threat to public safety, and they gave people a criminal record that had negative collateral consequences on employment, housing, education, and immigration,” Clark said in a statement. “Our application today is part of my Office’s pursuit of justice with integrity. There is no purpose in spending prosecutorial and judicial resources on conduct that the Legislature has decriminalized. Since Article 221 has been repealed, there is no longer any basis to continue the prosecution of open cases that contain a sole charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession and/or sale, or keep active warrants related to these matters, so we have moved to dismiss 6,089 cases.”
Peter Jones, attorney-in-charge of the Bronx trial office at the Legal Aid Society, joined the chorus of those celebrating the decision while also thanking Clark on behalf of his group for “agreeing to dismiss thousands of marijuana cases for expungeable offenses, and appreciate her recognition that continued prosecution for matters that have been legalized is unjust.”
“For decades, our clients shouldered the brunt of marijuana prohibition, losing
years of their lives ensnared in the criminal legal system and denied meaningful employment,
housing and other opportunities. These dismissals are critical for our clients, the majority from
communities of color, who can now move on with their lives,” Jones said.
New York legalized marijuana in late March, ending years of frustrations for advocates in the state. And while the regulated cannabis market is still more than a year away from opening for business, the new law yielded some immediate effects. Perhaps most notably, it is now legal to smoke marijuana anywhere that smoking tobacco is permitted.