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June 4, 2012

Serious talk of decriminalizing marijuana possession in New York

As reported in this Reuters article, "New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new legislation on Monday to decriminalize public possession of small amounts of marijuana, lowering the penalty from a misdemeanor to a non-criminal offense."  Here is more:

The measure — which strikes indirectly at the New York Police Department's controversial stop and frisk program — seeks to eliminate a nuance in state law that differentiates between public and private possession of the drug.

At present, first time offenders who are found to be carrying less than 25 grams of marijuana on their person are supposed to be issued a non-criminal violation ticket, similar to a traffic ticket, while those observed to be openly displaying a small amount of the drug — in an upturned palm, for instance — are often arrested on a misdemeanor criminal charge.

But critics of the NYPD's stop and frisk program say minority residents in high-crime areas are routinely arrested and charged criminally, following stops and searches by police that turn up small amounts of the drug in their pockets.   Those arrest records can turn up in background searches by landlords, employees and colleges, drug policy analysts said.

Misdemeanor marijuana arrests have skyrocketed in New York City in recent years, from about 2,000 a year in 1990 to more than 50,000 annually in 2010 and 2011.  Last year, police arrested 6,000 people in Manhattan alone for plain-view marijuana possession and they would have got a summons instead of being arrested under the proposed changes to the law, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said....

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly both expressed support for Cuomo's plan Monday.  Last September, Kelly issued a department-wide directive to stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, unless the drug was displayed in plain view.  But arrest rates did not drop significantly, according to drug policy analysts.

Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement on Monday morning that Cuomo's measure "strikes the right balance by ensuring that the NYPD will continue to have the tools it needs to maintain public safety — including making arrests for selling or smoking marijuana."...

In 2010 and 2011, marijuana possession arrests accounted for one in every seven arrests, more than for any other offense....  Misdemeanor marijuana arrests have hovered between about 29,000 and 52,000 every year since 1998, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

June 4, 2012 at 10:16 PM | Permalink


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Will Obama and his DEA respect any changes made in NY law in this respect, or will they disregard state marijuana laws as they have in Calif.?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jun 5, 2012 1:54:27 PM

He also said the proposal is "a political no-brainer" because most Americans will someday back "marijuana possession in small amounts." He said Cuomo, who might one day might have presidential aspirations, is positioning himself as the "marijuana law reformer."

Someone to reform marijuana laws now that's an idea!

Posted by: Anon | Jun 5, 2012 7:22:06 PM

As to the first comment, "carrying less than 25 grams of marijuana" is probably less of a federal concern than the major state industry of medicinal marijuana.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 6, 2012 9:18:31 AM

Anon --

I keep praying that Obama will make a big campaign issue about how we need to legalize pot, thus providing really good evidence of how disconnected he is from the (non-existent) "recovery" and the electorate's actual concerns about: record unemployment, slow or no growth, high taxes (all about to spike in seven months), massive, unsustainable debt accumulation, etc.

Four years ago, the Democrats won Wisconsin by 14 points. Last night, with a very high turnout, the Republicans won it by 7 points, a slightly higher margin than they had in the 2010 blowout. Obama is down to 52.3% on Intrade, and you can only kill Osama once.

The President has all he can handle right now. He needed to do the gay marriage thing because Big Mouth Joe got out in front of him, and because the California contributions has started to fall off. But campaigning to legalize dope would be beyond my wildest dreams.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 6, 2012 1:48:29 PM


Obama certainly is not going to campaign for legalizing marijuana before the election although there is a small chance he would as lame duck President. I doubt the word "legalize" would be the word he used most likely "reform". In any case as I have mentioned before I do not use marijuana but do think it should be legalized or should I say reformed.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 6, 2012 4:49:53 PM

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