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New marijuana prosecution policy to begin in Albany County

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WRGB) - Starting Saturday, Albany County District Attorney David Soares' office will no longer prosecute people who are only facing simple marijuana possession charges, which means carrying under 2 ounces.

He says this doesn't change his office's approach towards prosecuting marijuana users. Soares also says someone may still be prosecuted if simple possession isn’t the only charge in their case.

"Behind the wheel is completely unacceptable. Smoking is completely unacceptable,” Soares said.

Soares says declining to prosecute these cases would free up room in the justice system. Soares says in this day and age, prosecuting low level marijuana offenses aren’t a good use of resources.

"More often than not, the vast majority of the people that we're seeing are people that have only been in contact with law enforcement for these issues," Soares said.

But local police departments we spoke to say this won't change their enforcement approach, and Soares says he isn't demanding any policy change from them.

"We can advise but what we don't do is direct," Soares said.

Deputy Chief Curtis Cox of Guilderland police says even without the threat of prosecution, his agency can still deter people from breaking the state's marijuana laws.

"Being placed under arrest can be very intimidating, it can be very embarrassing. If individuals want to take a chance on having that and having their name out there, that's certainly something we can take into consideration,” Cox said.

Soares also stresses that his new policy is not a get out of jail free card for those who are looking to exploit it.

"If a person continues to access marijuana, continues to consume marijuana in a way that violates the law, yes, you'd prosecute them."

Soares says prosecutions will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Soares will hold an open public forum on this new policy Dec. 12 at the Albany Public library at 6 p.m. He says people who have already been convicted of simple marijuana possession can apply to have their case expunged through their Clean Slate Program.

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