How Brooklyn's New Marijuana Policy Will Play on the Streets

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Seattle resident takes marijuana from a plastic bag shortly after a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana took effect on December 6, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images/Getty)

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson announced this week that he'll no longer prosecute low-level marijuana possession cases. But NYPD Commissioner Bratton has instructed the NYPD to continue making arrestsEugene O'Donnell, professor of law and police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, former police officer, and former prosecutor, discusses what this means for Brooklyn residents and law enforcement on the ground.


Eugene O'Donnell

Comments [27]

Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jennifer from Manhattan

Did you even READ the "Mother Jones" article you referenced? Because this is a direct quote from it:

"The trespass grows are really an issue because of prohibition," says Gary Hughes, the executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, a 37-year-old Emerald Triangle environmental group that cut its teeth fighting the logging industry. "It is not the growers who are a disease. They are just a symptom. The real disease is the failed drug war."

Yet without the drug war, the region's pot sector might fade into oblivion. Take away the threat of federal raids, and to some extent pot becomes just another row crop, grown en masse wherever it's cheapest. "A shift in cultivation to the Central Valley is definitely possible," Hughes acknowledges.

There will likely still be a niche for the Emerald Triangle growers who started it all, Nevedal believes, just as there has been for craft whiskey distilleries in post-Prohibition Kentucky. Growing really good weed is simply too much work and too much strain on the environment to make sense on an industrial scale. As it happens, Nevedal speculates, the Emerald Triangle might just end up where it started, providing artisanal dank for a high-end market. "The future," she says, "is the small family farm."

Jul. 17 2014 07:51 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jennifer from Manhattan

You. Dunce. You can't lump marijuana use in with "illegal drug use" when you've already claimed, wrongly, that people in NYC are smoking weed from South of the border. So now, as is typical of trolls, you try and make it about something else i.e. "illegal drug use" a category so broad it could seemingly encompass prescription drug abuse and synthetics like "K2". We all get it, you're a whinging holier than thou pseudo-moralist who thinks that criminalizing vice somehow implicates the consumers instead of the criminalizers of said vice... Look, sweetie, we tried it your way once, remember Prohibition? You must be a millenial to be so dense and completely oblivious to history.

Jul. 17 2014 07:35 PM
jennifer from Manhattan

A few months ago, Mother Jones did an extensive story on the impact illegal marijuana growing is having in the west. That is a good place to start on the subject of the negative environmental impact.

Illegal drug use is inextricably tied to the problems in Central and South America. No amount of wishing it wasn't so is going to make it that way. Mr. Bad, your comments just illustrate why Brian needs to do a segment on this.

Jul. 17 2014 01:34 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jennifer from Manhattan

LOL, you're a peach. I don't have to "check the internet" sweetie, I'm well versed on the subject and you don't. know. anything. When I don't know anything about something I keep my mouth shut, you should try it sometime, I've found it keeps me from looking like an idiot.

Jul. 17 2014 11:32 AM

@ Jennifer

"Devastating ecological impact"? That's the kind of over-the-top statement that weakens your argument. Monsanto and coal-mining contribute devastating ecological impacts. Marijuana growing can be done with minimal impact - if it were legalized. BTW, children are dying picking tobacco, a neurotoxin, down south. And it's all legal.

Jul. 17 2014 11:21 AM
jennifer from Manhattan

I appreciate the feedback on my comment but you are all sadly misinformed. Five minutes on the internet researching this might change your opinions. Marijuana growing is also having a devastating ecological impact in the US, but that is another subject.

Jul. 17 2014 10:56 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

The hypocrisy and outright stupidity displayed on this board today is shocking, especially by people who should know better. The DA has TOTAL discretion to decide whom to prosecute and under what statute. For as long as I have worked in the legal profession I have seen first hand how wealthy defendants with good lawyers (or teams) consistently plead down from SOLID FELONY CASES to chickensh*t misdemeanors because the DA's office does not have the time or resources to effectively bring wealthy or politically connected defendants to trial. "Prosecutorial discretion" is, I suppose, only defensible when it works for the 1%... and it does, every day - God forbid the DA should openly and honestly announce an office policy that has been the de facto MO for dealing with wealthy white kids for YEARS and extend that same "discretion" to those who cannot afford a high priced defense attorney.

Jul. 17 2014 10:50 AM
CR from Manhattan

Sheldon -

Yes. A law is a law. It applies universally to everyone/everything. That's what "law" means. Thompson wants to pick and chose who to enforce laws upon based on their race? Every single person - the white kid on fifth avenue, the black kid in Bed-Stuy, the yuppie in central park on his lunch break knows full well they are breaking the law. No law should ever be enforced because of the consequences the guilty may incur. Deterrent and punitive consequences are why we have laws. Moreover, Thompson is not a law maker. He is a law enforcement officer. We elect law makers at city hall, in Albany and in Washington DC to make our laws. We elect DAs to enforce them. The pressure should be on Albany & DC to decriminalize or even better LEGALIZE marijuana (I personally think it should be legal). Until then we need to enforce our laws evenly and apply them to all. When cops and DAs get to pick who to prosecute we are in big trouble.

Jul. 17 2014 10:35 AM

From the 50,000 foot level the DA needs to prosecute all laws. It is NOT his job to pick and choose.

From the street level, law enforcement is a constrained resource and therefore every cop, every DA, every judge does some picking and choosing on what to prosecute and what not. Having law enforcement pick and choose what to prosecute IS NOT following the rule of law.

The Legislature has been given notice to do something about the drug laws for the state. If they don't change the law, the DA ought to be removed from office.

And what happens to all the folks already arrested and convicted for a pot bust? Do we change our attitude about them?

Jul. 17 2014 10:29 AM

@Jennifer - most marijuana that is smoked in this country is from this country. Or Canada. People who enjoy smoking quality marijuana know that the best weed is from California, British Columbia, or grown indoors hydroponically.

Jul. 17 2014 10:28 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jennifer from Manhattan

Try and stick to the topic if possible, this segment is about marijuana decriminalization, nobody is smoking/buying weed from Mexico (or any other country SOUTH of the border)in this city.

We need fewer beat cops and more forensic accountants... the biggest criminals in this city wear White Collars, dine with judges and politicians and do more damage to our society and city than any drug dealer...

Jul. 17 2014 10:28 AM
David from nyc

Face it ....Government needs income and soon it will be taxed.

Jul. 17 2014 10:26 AM

Cliff - you left an open-air playground because you smelled marijuana and called the police about it? Why? What were you so afraid would happen - to you or your 17-month old child? There are lots of odors we are exposed to everyday in this city. What about vegetarians who live next door to people who cook meat? That smell might be repulsive to them. I really don't understand where you are coming from. I'd be more inclined to get my child away from a group of people drinking rather than smoking pot. Drinkers are more unpredictable.

Jul. 17 2014 10:25 AM

Hey, how about if the cops bust the speeders, illegal turn makers, etc. Two objectives with one move, poor pedestrians and wealthy benefit! Of course, then they'd have to start respecting traffic rules themselves...

Jul. 17 2014 10:25 AM
Nick from UWS

Clif...I'm sorry, even though it looks like it because we posted almost simultaneously, my remark was not directed at you. It was directed at what I was hearing from the legal system in general as expressed by this guest.

Jul. 17 2014 10:23 AM
John from office

African American DA permits the population that least needs to be involved in marijuana, (IT MAKES YOU STUPID, LAZY and KILLS AMBITION)to smoke without consequences.

Suicidal african american thinking. Lets not smoke, lets make it OK!

Next: Minor muggings will be Ok, a DAT will be issued.

Jul. 17 2014 10:22 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

CR, you mean, like not searching, arresting, and prosecuting kids on the Upper East and Upper West side for weed?

Jul. 17 2014 10:22 AM
jennifer from Manhattan

Okay, so you did a segment on the unwanted immigrant children and another segment on illegal drug use in Manhattan, but no segment connecting the two. Until people in the United States take responsibility for their illegal drug use, Central and South America are going to continue to be racked by violence fueled by the drug trade.

Jul. 17 2014 10:18 AM
Nick from UWS

"What if I was smoking in front of a family member?" So what? So you were smoking in front of a family member. What else do you do in front of family members? Do you ever drink alcohol in front of a family member? Smoke a cigarette? Ride a bike without a helmet? What kind of idiocy is this?

Jul. 17 2014 10:18 AM
Jeff Pappas

No prohibition works
Sugar is more dangerous than Mary Jane
Let common sense prevail

Jul. 17 2014 10:18 AM
CR from Manhattan

Please discuss the oath of office a NY DA must take. What's the oath for a member of the New York bar? Is there anything about "obeying and enforcing the law" or do those oaths include "obey laws that suit your political agenda..." Can he be disbarred or impeached for willfully neglecting these oath(s)?

Ask him what other laws Thompson thinks should be enforced on a race-based basis because conviction is inconvenient for perpetrators.

Jul. 17 2014 10:17 AM
Clif from Manhattan

Nick, speak for yourself. I don't do any of those things in front of my son. Parents who do... well I think it speaks for itself.

Jul. 17 2014 10:13 AM
Molly from Manhattan

I don't want people who smoke pot be arrested. But also: I don't want them to smoke just about everywhere, because that smell, frankly, is not that great.

Jul. 17 2014 10:12 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Smoking weed in public should be treated just like having an open container of alcohol. Cops have the right to ask for ID, run warrants etc. but should just give a ticket if everything comes up clean.

It has been a complete and utter waste of time and resources, arresting otherwise law abiding people for marijuana. That's not including the racial and class discrepancies in the people arrested.

Jul. 17 2014 10:11 AM
Nick from UWS

Oh I's OK for people, parents, to drink endless beer in front of their kids, drink cocktails, booze, smoke cigarettes, watch vile movies, but it's dangerous for them to smoke pot in front of children. What complete idiocy. What complete fucking idiots run this world.

Jul. 17 2014 10:09 AM
Clif from Manhattan

Yes, your guest highlights a VERY important part of this decriminalization: people smoking marijuana in public around children/families. I was at the Willoughby playground in Brooklyn with my 17 mo son and the whole playground smelled very strongly of marijuana smoke as there is a basketball court immediately adjacent to the playground. I had no choice but to leave. As I did I called 911 and reported it.

I am all for legalization/decriminalization of marijuana, however, if people want this privilege, it needs to be done in a responsible way and respectful way. Otherwise, it's simply not going to work and I think we'll open a pandora's box of related problems.

Jul. 17 2014 10:09 AM
Jj from Queens

Is this like the Speed Limit ? The speed limit is 65 MPH. Everyone drives 75 on the highway. Police chose who gets punished for doing the same thing as others.

Jul. 17 2014 10:04 AM

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