New York: Minority Caucus Joins Community Groups Calling For Fix To Broken Marijuana Possession Law
By Steve Elliott
The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus on Tuesday will gather to urge an end to the biased and costly practices of falsely arresting tens of thousands of people in New York for low-level marijuana possession.
They will be joined by dozens of advocates and impacted people from around the state to urge passage of Governor Andrew Cuomo's marijuana decriminalization proposal. The proposal, outlined in his 2013 State of the State Address, would decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis in public view, but smoking in public would remain a misdemeanor.
Fixing the law would help end the practice of arresting tens of thousands of young people every year for possessing marijuana in public view -- after police have misleadingly demanded they "empty their pockets" during a stop-and-frisk encounter.
The reform proposal outlined by Gov. Cuomo is supported by dozens of community organizations throughout the state, state legislators, the NYC Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Additionally, the reforms are supported by law enforcement leaders from across the state, including NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelley, all five NYC district attorneys (Democrat and Republican), district attorneys from Long Island, Buffalo and Albany, and police leaders like the Albany sheriff and Rochester police chief.
Also The New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Syracuse Times-Standard, and the Buffalo News are among the newspapers that have written editorials supporting the reform.
The arrests statistics say it all. About 45,000 people were arrested in New York for marijuana possession in 2012 alone; nearly 40,000 of those arrests were in New York City, far exceeding the total cannabis arrests from 1981 to 1985.
The cost to taxpayers was nearly $75 million last year alone, with more than $600 million being wasted in the last decade. With budgets tightening everywhere, legislators and advocates are joining together to call for sensible reforms.
Fixing the law and standardizing penalties will bring us closer to ending racially discriminatory marijuana arrest practices and focusing our limited resources more effectively, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.