Brooklyn Judge Vows Not to Send People Back to Prison for Smoking Marijuana

Excerpted from the New York Times.

Noting that marijuana has become increasingly accepted by society, a federal judge in Brooklyn made an unusual promise on Thursday: He pledged he would no longer reimprison people simply for smoking pot.

In a written opinion that was part legal document, part mea culpa, the judge, Jack B. Weinstein, 96, acknowledged that for too long, he had been sending people sentenced to supervised release back into custody for smoking pot even though the drug has been legalized by many states and some cities, like New York, have recently decided not to arrest those who use it. Under supervised release, inmates are freed after finishing their prison time, but are monitored by probation officers.

“Like many federal trial judges, I have been terminating supervision for ‘violations’ by individuals with long-term marijuana habits who are otherwise rehabilitated,” Judge Weinstein wrote. “No useful purpose is served through the continuation of supervised release for many defendants whose only illegal conduct is following the now largely socially acceptable habit of marijuana use.”

Supervised release, administered in courts across the country by the federal probation agency, was created in 1984 to help rehabilitate people who have finished prison terms. But certain violations can lead to reimprisonment: among them, using drugs, getting caught with weapons or associating with other known criminals.

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