After NYS Pot Decriminalization, Westchester DA Clarifies Policy

Aug 6, 2019

In January, Westchester County implemented a new marijuana prosecution policy. The possession of two ounces or less of marijuana no longer results in a criminal conviction. On July 29, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation further decriminalizing marijuana use in the state. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne spoke with Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino about whether the new state law affects county policy.

To be clear, the difference is that the Westchester district attorney’s office will not prosecute possession of less than two ounces of marijuana while, under state law, possession of less than an ounce will be treated as a violation, resulting in a fine on conviction, but not a criminal charge.

Scarpino, a Democrat first elected in 2016, says his office prosecutes about 30,000 criminal cases annually, including ones that are drug-related. He believes county policy has had a positive effect.

Cuomo said state law had disproportionately affected African American and Latino communities. State lawmakers did not support the legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana during the session that ended in June, but plan to return with attention to the topic next year. Scarpino believes it was wise to hold off on such legislation.

Anthony Scarpino is Westchester County district attorney. The state decriminalization law goes into effect August 28.