WESTCHESTER, N.Y. – Westchester County will no longer prosecute what it deems to be “low-level” marijuana offenses.
Under this new policy, announced by District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, possessing two ounces or less of marijuana will no longer result in a criminal conviction.
Two laws will be affected by this change, which took effect Jan. 14:
• Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree (Class B misdemeanor): A person guilty of this crime illegally possessed marijuana in a public place or had more than 25 grams of marijuana on them (an ounce equals about 28 grams).
• Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (violation): A guilty person possessed any amount of marijuana, regardless of whether that person was in a public place.
The violation will no longer be prosecuted, the DA’s office said.
The misdemeanor charge will only be prosecuted when a person possesses marijuana that is either burning or viewable in a public place, provided it is the person’s lone offense.
“This will avoid the stigma of a criminal record for many of our young people with long-lasting negative consequences disproportionate to the minor nature of the offense,” the DA’s office said.
Yorktown Police Chief Robert Noble told Halston Media: “We will abide by this new policy of the office of the Westchester County District Attorney. I’d like to remind everyone that marijuana is still illegal in New York State.”
The office will continue to review the prosecution of other “lower-level” marijuana offenses. Additional changes may be announced.
“After a careful review of marijuana cases in Westchester, as well as discussions with police, community leaders and advocates, we have made the decision to change how we prosecute such offenses,” the district attorney said. “This decision not to prosecute specific cases will allow many people to move forward with their lives without the stigma attached to criminal records of any kind, records that cause discrimination in housing, job and school applications. Much of this has burdened our minority communities and we believe it is time to rectify that.”
Scarpino said this will benefit police departments and prosecutors who can make better use of their resources.
“What has been spent on arrests and prosecutions can now be used to focus on more serious crimes,” Scarpino said.
Scarpino, in a prepared statement, also urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to “create a uniform approach to prosecuting marijuana offenses and end the disparity currently in place from county to county.”