Legal Aid Chief Comments on new marijuana policy in New York Law Journal

From the defense side, Seymour James, attorney-in-chief at the Legal Aid Society, called the policy a "positive development." Still, he noted, "it doesn't eliminate the problem of disproportionate policing in communities of color."

Though summons were preferable to arrests for such offenses, James said he was concerned about the "quality of the advocacy" provided in the summons parts.

James noted there were still arguments that defendants could use in the part, such as a suppression bid. Furthermore, he noted there were pitfalls defendants could face—such as the collateral consequences of guilty pleas, given that it was possible to be deported after two or more convictions for marijuana possession, even at the violation level.

James added that even one conviction for a marijuana violation could hold up a citizenship application or make someone "inadmissible" if they left the country and tried to return.

Legal Aid attorneys are not contracted to handle cases in the summons parts. "If the city wanted us to do that, we'll certainly discuss that with them," he said.