Governor Andrew Cuomo said a plan to relax laws regarding cannabis possession was being considered, reports Jimmy Vielkind at the Albany Times Union.
Police now write a violation ticket, roughly equivalent to a speeding ticket, for simple possession of marijuana in New York — but having pot “in public view” means you can get a misdemeanor, a more serious charge.
According to many witnesses, officers with the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program often misleadingly ask targets to take marijuana out of their pockets — where it would prompt only a violation ticket — and into “public view,” where they can be, and often are, arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
The result is that black and Hispanic youth are disproportionately given criminal records, even though studies show whites use cannabis at higher rates, according to Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn).
“We’re not only punishing the individual; we’re punishing society,” said Camara, who noted the high expense of enforcement and the difficulty faced by young people with arrest records when it comes to getting in college.
“These arrests have collateral damage on youth,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who appeared with Camara at a news conference sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance.
Gov. Cuomo pushed the marijuana issue in a bill last year, but it stalled after opposition from Senate Republicans. He said it remained a “priority” that has come up in the context of the budget negotiations.
The decrim measure has broad support in the state Assembly, according to Camara, but inclusion in the budget would give it leverage in the state Senate as well. The Senate is controlled by a coalition of 30 Republicans and the five-member Independent Democratic Conference.
An IDC spokesman said the group supported Cuomo’s marijuana decrim proposal, but a Republican spokesman didn’t return a request for comment.