Despite the fact that New York City has spent more than one million police hours arresting people for marijuana over the last eleven years, New York state lawmakers have dropped any talks of decriminalization in that state.
As we reported earlier this week, there was still hope that a bill that would decriminalize public display of up to 15 grams of marijuana – a technicality that allows police to skirt decriminalization laws in place since the late 1970s – would pass as part of a package deal with state budget negotiations.
On Wednesday, the governor announced that budget talks had concluded – but that marijuana was no longer on the table. The New York legislature heads for vacation next week, so getting the bill passed before April has a snowflake’s chance in hell. The New York state legislature reconvenes April 8, running until June 20.
Marijuana reform group Drug Policy Alliance says that each week that the decriminalization is pushed back means 1,000 more arrests using more than 2,000 police hours, all at a cost of about $1.5 million per-week to taxpayers.
Several legislators say they are dismayed by how the bill was just tossed out.
“I am gravely disappointed that this budget failed to enact justice for the more than 44,000 individuals arrested last year based on a flawed law,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara in a press release. Camara, the chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said that keeping the laws in place is a “gross misappropriation of city and state resources, and a waste of officer manpower that can be spent on more pressing law enforcement … Yet politics trumped the policy that would be best for New York City and our state.”
According to the Huffington Post, nobody in the legislature seems to have an answer as to what happened. “The only ones who seem to know are Gov. Cuomo, Speaker Silver, Senator Skelos and Senator Klein,” said Gabriel Sayegh, director of the New York office for Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s like watching the Three Stooges, except there’s essentially four. Everybody points at everybody else.”
The legislature still has time to pass the bill before closing in June, but Sayegh tells HuffPo that he isn’t holding his breath: “If they can’t get it done now, why are we supposed to believe that we can get it done later?”