A shared desire to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession has inspired a rare show of bipartisanship and upstate-downstate agreement in the New York Legislature. A freshman GOP state senator is co-sponsoring a bill with a Democratic Assemblyman to reduce the penalty for public possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.
According to the cosponsors, many people — especially minorities in New York City — end up getting busted for small amounts if they are stopped by a police officer and told to empty their pockets — at which point the pot possession supposedly becomes “public,” reports Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union
|Photo: Drug Policy Alliance
|Tony Newman, Drug Policy Alliance: “They are basically tricking them to show it”
”They are basically tricking them to show it,” said Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. According to Newman, taxpayers are footing the bill for these senseless arrests to the tune of $75 million a year.
At the same time, some of those arrested for marijuana risk losing college aid or other benefits for what amounts to a minor violation.
Grisanti, coming from a largely Democratic district in Buffalo with a large minority population, said the state can’t afford the cost, and noted “the unwarranted racial disparities associated with these arrests are unacceptable.”
Jeffries, from New York City, called the bill “an additional step toward a more equitable criminal justice system that treats everyone the same regardless of race of socioeconomic status.”
New York decriminalized marijuana in 1977, reducing the punishment for possession of 25 grams or less a violation punishable by a $100 fine. Possession of any amount in “public view” is still a misdemeanor, however, opening the door for deceptive tactics by police in creating “public view” marijuana cases.
The Big Apple has become known as the marijuana arrest capital of the world. Police arrest an average of 140 people every day
in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana.