Everything points to New York soon following 10 other states and the District of Columbia and legalizing the possession of marijuana.
But, we are not there yet.
That’s why it doesn’t make any sense for Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares to unilaterally stop prosecuting people for possessing small amounts of the drug.
His rational might be sound: There are better things to spend limited resources on than holding an adult accountable for having some pot in his or her possession. But, as of right now, it is still against the law in this state.
He already has the discretion to prosecute those charged with any crime to the extent he sees fit. Isn’t it better to take minor marijuana possession charges on a case by case basis rather than have a blanket refusal to prosecute breakers of a law he doesn’t agree with.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said it best in a recommendation to prosecutors in his state: “The goal should be to achieve individual justice in individual cases.”
Soares, in announcing his new policy, said relief from the law would only apply to simple marijuana possession cases and only apply to those in possession of less than two ounces. Anyone caught committing other crimes while holding a couple of joints would still be prosecuted for possession as well as the other crimes.
That all makes sense.
And, we can appreciate the fact he is upping Driving While Ability Impaired by drug penalties to more severely punish those who opt to make the foolish choice of driving after smoking a joint or two.
That also makes sound sense.
Gut the fact remains possessing marijuana is still against the law in this state. And, it’s still a federal crime as well.
As such, police departments are still going to arrest you for possessing pot and confiscate the drug, too. It’s not a police department’s job to enforce just the laws they want to enforce.
In that regard, “legalizing” marijuana is somewhat of a misnomer. What the other states have done, and what will likely happen in this state, is change how marijuana is regulated.
That is the key. Without weighing in on whether it’s a good idea or not, one of the upsides of “legalizing” marijuana is that the government can regulate where it comes from, who can sell it and who can buy it and with that comes the possibility of raising millions of dollars in tax revenue.
It is just a matter of time. The state Health Department released findings of a report that said, in summary, the pros of legalization outweigh the cons. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is indicating a warming to the idea by holding public hearings. And Democrats now hold a majority in the state Senate instead of Republicans, who were opposed to the idea for years.
But the wheels of government move slowly in this state, and Soares should have some patience, exercise some of the discretion that comes with the power of his office.
It’s not his job to decide which laws are good or bad.