ALBANY – Matt Toporowski, who is challenging David Soares for the Democratic nomination for Albany County district attorney, said he believes marijuana should be legalized and that if elected, he would decline to prosecute some cases.
Toporowski, an attorney, released the policy he would follow if elected, which includes diverting or reducing felony marijuana charges. His office would also not prosecute misdemeanor marijuana charges or probation and parole violations for positive marijuana tests. Additionally, Toporowski said he would still prosecute cases that involve driving under the influences and illegal marijuana sales.
“Our marijuana policy will address the inequities in the prosecution of marijuana crimes of the past, and we will advocate for the legalization, regulation and reinvestment in the communities of color that were previously targeted for marijuana use with tax revenue generated by the legal sale of marijuana,” Toporowski said.
Toporowski said he would also examine past marijuana convictions in the county and move to re-sentence offenders when possible.
Soares’ own position on marijuana has shifted in recent years, including changing his office’s policy on which marijuana cases it chooses to prosecute.
As of December 2018, Soares said his office would no longer prosecute possession cases with less than two ounces of marijuana. That standard does not apply for cases involving driving under the influence charges.
Soares, who was elected in 2004 on a platform of ending the Rockefeller drug laws, said he supports legalization of recreational marijuana as well, with the caveats that the state invest heavily in road safety to reduce impaired driving. Soares said he also believes the state needs a plan to invest in communities hurt by the war on drugs. In recent years his office has worked to expunge or seal some past offenders’ convictions, recognizing that their convictions are preventing them from successfully reintegrating in to the community, Soares said.
He said part of that was due to a series of open meetings around the county where he listened to residents’ opinions on marijuana and legalization.
“It was an eye-opening experience to me to hear from people most affected by this,” he said.
The Democratic primary is June 23.