The findings follow an article published Sunday at the New York Times that found that over a period of three years, black people in New York were eight times more likely to face arrest for low-level marijuana charges. A disproportionate number of those arrested were minorities.
The district attorney's office in Manhattan, New York City's largest borough, will no longer file charges against defendants in most marijuana possession and smoking cases, the office announced on Tuesday.
Defense lawyers have also expressed concern that giving prosecutors discretion to decide what constitutes a public nuisance would let them continue prosecuting many cases.
Vance said the aim was "a safer NY and a more equal justice system". Research has found no good evidence that marijuana arrests are associated with reductions in serious crime in New York City.
"Today I'm announcing that the NYPD will overhaul and reform its policies related to marijuana enforcement in the next 30 days", de Blasio said while attending a conference in Washington.
Discussions were ongoing to consider "limited exceptions" to the policy.
"I am disappointed that there is racial disparity in arrests, as I have been and was in the leadership on stop-and-frisk, and I want to see it corrected", Sharpton said, responding to a reporter's question about de Blasio's attitude toward the issue. "We need to start protecting the common, regular people". "This work has yielded valuable insights into how responsibly to frame any future laws and regulations to avoid negative impacts on public safety".
Under the current policy in Manhattan, people are arrested, fingerprinted and have to appear in court.
Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status, and community involvement.
The DA's office said this creates enormous costs for the legal system and alienates too many people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of few NY politicians who has opposed marijuana legalization, promised to relax police enforcement after facing increasing pressure to address racial disparities in pot arrests.
Brooklyn's late district attorney announced a similar policy in July 2014, saying law enforcement resources could be better used elsewhere and that petty offenders should not be saddled with a criminal record for a minor offence. "We will await the results of that review", a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.
DPA is now leading a campaign, Start Smart New York, to pass marijuana legalization in New York, with a focus on racial, social and economic justice.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who referred to marijuana as a "gateway drug" less than a year ago, now plans to form a panel to study its legalization. Some states, like NY, have decriminalized marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis.